Category Archives: Painting

Book Review: Illuminating the Life of the Buddha: An Illustrated Chanting Book from Eighteenth-century Siam (2013)

Review by Jeffrey Martin

illumbuddhaAppleton, Naomi, Sarah Shaw, and Toshiya Unebe. Illuminating the Life of the Buddha: An Illustrated Chanting Book from Eighteenth-century Siam. Oxford, England: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2013. Print. 142 pp.

This brief book describes and illustrates (in 86 photographs) an 18-century samut khoi, an illuminated Thai manuscript now in the collection of the Bodleian Library, Oxford University.

The manuscript’s format is traditional to Buddhist texts in many countries: a stack of long sheets of paper bound between planks of leather, wood, lacquer, or other hard material as covers.  This particular manuscript was made of several sheets of paper joined into one long piece, folded fan-like, into a stack 660mm long by 95mm wide. Each fold in the fan contains two flanking illustrations, with text in the center, but the content of the paintings and the text are only loosely related.   The text is an assortment of canonical material, from Vinaya to Abhidhamma to Qualities of the Buddha.  The illustrations depict the last 10 Jātaka stories, the early life of the Bodhisatta, and the Life of the Buddha.  It is possible this text was created in Thailand specifically for Sri Lankan monks and thus contains what were considered essential texts to help restore what was then a lapsed monastic tradition.


A visual map of the manuscript

A textual map of the manuscript

A textual map of the manuscript

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Photo essay: Glimpse of Longmen Grottoes

People’s Daily Online
June 18, 2014

Located in central China’s Henan Province, the Longmen Grottoes is a World Cultural Heritage recognized by UNESCO in 2000. The stone carvings in Longmen Grottoes were started from the reign of Emperor Xiaowen of North Wei Dynasty (471-477) and lasted over 400 years to complete.

Representing the highest stone-carving level of China, the Longmen Grottoes stretches about 1 kilometer from south to north, with over 1,300 grottoes, 2,345 shrines, over 3,600 inscriptions, over 50 pagodas and over 97,000 Buddha statues. It is not only a stone-carving art museum, but also an encyclopedia of history and culture.

For more photos, follow the [link].

Ancient murals in Aba Prefecture in urgent need of protection

People’s Daily Online
July 01, 2014

A photo of ancient murals in Xuankong Gumiao. (Xinhua/Jiang Hongjing)

Wall paintings discovered inside an ancient Buddhist temple were in need of comprehensive protection and restoration. The temple, Xuankong Gumiao, or “Suspended Ancient Temple”, is located 3,200 meters above sea level, on top of Gada Mountain of Jinchuan in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture.

The wall paintings are described as “delicately well-crafted”. However, after thousands of years of wind and rain, the temple is collapsing and some of murals have been seriously damaged. Historians then call for better protection and repairing of those murals.

For more photos, follow the [link].

Buddhist Initiation Paintings from the Yuan Court (1271-1368) in the Sino-Himalayan Style
Jane Casey
June 16, 2014

Fig. 1

Towards the middle of the thirteenth century, Chinese imperial court painting typically resembled that seen in the Four Sages of Mount Shang, a work by renowned artist Ma Yuan. It was probably painted at the court of Southern Song Emperor Lizong in Linan, Hangzhou province, around 1225.[2] (fig. 1) The Four Sages are mythic figures who are said to have disagreed with the actions of a Han dynasty emperor. In order to preserve their moral integrity, they withdrew to Mount Shang where they pursued the arts of self-cultivation, thereby exemplifying Confucian and Taoist ideals. The painting’s aesthetic and its technique—masterful brushstrokes and subtle washes of color on paper—epitomise the prevailing canons of Southern Song painting. 

Fig. 2

Within seventy years, Chinese imperial court art also looked like the image in figure 2.[3] The painted stone sculpture, now in the Musee Guimet in Paris, depicts Tibetan Buddhist protector deity Mahakala in his guise as Gurgyi Gonpo (mgur gyi mgon po). The image is rendered in what Himalayan specialists will recognise to be a Nepalese or Newar style. This startling new imperial court style reflects the enormous social and political changes brought about by Mongol rule in China. Between 1260 and 1368, patronage of Tibetan Buddhism and its arts were one of the largest expenditures of the Yuan state, amounting to several tons of gold and silver, and hundreds of thousands of bolts of silk.[4]

This essay examines a group of Buddhist initiations paintings in a private collection. Like the Guimet Gurgyi Gonpo sculpture, they are likely to be rare surviving examples of a Himalayan-inspired school of art that flourished at the Chinese Yuan court.The style combines Tibetan Buddhist iconography and mid-thirteenth century Newar painting traditions with elements of style—notably textile and costume design—that are demonstrably Chinese Yuan. Moreover, two paintings within the group portray a Yuan Mongol emperor and a Tibetan Buddhist Sakya hierarch.

To view the complete article and illustrations, follow the [link].

NY Thangka Painting Classes

Buddhist mural at Rubin Museum of Art

Carmen Mensink is a Dutch painter working in the Tibetan thangka tradition and will be conducting classes throughout the state of New York during July 2014.  For a full schedule and descriptions of classes, please visit her website here.

US Exhibit: Tibetan Buddhism gets a feminist reboot

Colorado Springs Independent
Kirsten Akens
May 21, 2014

Hunter-Larsen: 'As a total outsider ... you would not see this as radical art.'

Thangka by Joan Bredin-Price

When you step into Colorado College’s IDEA Space during its 2014 summer exhibition Mandala of Enlightenment: The Dhyani Buddhas and Tara: Goddess of Liberation, you might think you’re simply surrounded by a couple dozen pieces of traditional Tibetan Buddhist art.

It’ll take some work on your part — reading the wall texts, in particular — to understand what’s happening in Joan Bredin-Price’s paintings around you. Continue reading

Reflecting on Zen Buddhism

Yomiuri Shimbun
May 13, 2014

Artist Tenkei Shichiruido, 52, paints on one of 92 fusuma sliding doors that depict stories such as the introduction of Zen Buddhism into Japan at Ryosokuin temple in Kyoto. Ryosokuin is a sub-temple of Kenninji, the main temple of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. This year, the sect will hold an 800th memorial service for its founder, Yosai. Sixteen of the 92 doors will be unveiled to the public in July.


LA Exhibit Review: Norton Simon’s ‘In the Land of Snow’ is an enlightening exhibit

LA Times
David Pagel
08 April 2014

'In the Land of Snow'

A bronze sculpture with silver and copper inlay depicts Buddha and his followers on the cosmic mountain, Kashmir, circa 700.

At a time when museums seem to be torn between blockbusters and specialized scholarship, it’s refreshing to come across “In the Land of Snow: Buddhist Art of the Himalayas” at the Norton Simon Museum, a no-nonsense exhibition that spares the bells and whistles to make a strong case for the virtues of amateurism.

Not that long ago, before America was a nation of over-professionalized experts, pretension was something to be made fun of and it was OK to be an amateur. The word’s Latin root is “lover.” Admiration is essential to its definition.

Those emotions form the heart and soul of the two-gallery exhibition, which was organized by assistant curator Melody Rod-ari. Made up of 34 ceremonial objects of Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism, all but two of which are drawn from the Pasadena museum’s impressive holdings of Asian art, “In the Land of Snow” is both manageable and satisfying.

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The Art of Dunhuang

Dunhuang Research Academy

Figure 1: Mogao Grottoes along the cliff, Dunhuang, Gobi Desert, China

Among the must-see treasures of the world are the 1600 year old Dunhuang cave-temple museums. They include the Mogao Grottoes, the Yulin Grottoes, the Western Thousand Buddha Grottoes, the Eastern Thousand Buddha Grottoes, and the Five Temple Grottoes.

Among them, Mogaoku (the Mogao Grottoes, also known as Caves of Thousand Buddhas) is the most magnificent. A total of 735 caves (including 492 containing artwork) have been identified. They were constructed along the cliff facing east, extending from north to south ( Figure 1). The decorated caves are found mainly in the southern section.

Cave art is an invention of the ancient Indian Buddhists, but their achievement was far surpassed by the Chinese grottoes, both in grandeur and in the length of time the original artwork has remained in situ.

Besides the ample achievement in visual art, the Dunhuang art is a witness to the toleration and fusion of different cultures. It didn’t inherit any one single style; instead it assimilated many different influences from metropolitan China, Central Asia and India, and integrated them into a unique style.

For the entire article, please follow the [link].



Video: Buddhist Murals at Wat Thung Si Meuang

28 March 2014

Buddhist mural paintings at the walls of the ubosot, the holiest pagoda of the monastery. The paints were done probably on the early fourth reign (Rama IV -King Mongkut- (1851-1868). Wat Thung Si Meuang วัดทุ่งศรีเมือง in the heart of Ubon Ratchathani, provincial capital in Isan. North-Eastern Thailand.