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Mithila Art

Mithila painting, as a domestic ritual activity, was unknown to the outside world until the massive Bihar earthquake of 1934. House walls had tumbled down, and the British colonial officer in Madhubani District, William G. Archer, inspecting the damage "discovered" the paintings on the newly exposed interior walls of homes. Archer - later to become the South Asia Curator at London's Victoria and Albert Museum - was stunned by the beauty of the paintings and similarities to the work of modern Western artists like Klee, Miro, and Picasso. During the 1930s he took black and white photos of some of these paintings, the earliest images we have of them. Then in a 1949 article in the Indian art journal, Marg, he brought the wall paintings to public attention.

Mithila had long been famous in India for its rich culture and numerous poets, scholars, and theologians - all men. For women, it has been a deeply conservative society, and until painting on paper began 40+ years ago, most women were confined to their homes and limited to household chores, child rearing, managing family rituals, and ritual wall painting. Therefore learning this art can be beneficia; for children in not only merely learning the art of painting but also the knowledge that a student can achieve when learning to paint enables him/her to understand human history through art.

Painting on paper for sale has changed this dramatically. Aside from generating important new family income, individual women have gained local, national, and even international recognition. Artists are being invited to exhibitions across India, and to Europe, the United States, and Japan - no longer as "folk artists," but now as "contemporary artists." Where once their paintings were "anonymous," now they are proudly signed. Along with economic success, opportunities for travel, education, radio, and now television are expanding women's consciousness and engagement with the multiple worlds around them. 


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