The Mysore style was again revived in early years of the 19th century under Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1799-1868). Some of the most beautiful and refined work was produced during his rule as the king himself took a very keen and personal interest in the art of painting. The illustrations in the manuscript of the famous cultural encyclopedia 'Sri Tattva-nidhi' are examples of the king's sophisticated taste and patronage.
By the middle of the 19th century, traditional paintings became quite popular. Many rich merchants and palace officials wanted paintings to decorate their homes and domestic shrines. To meet this demand, traditional artists began to paint small, intimate groups of gods and goddesses set within decorative niches in the manner of portraits. Mysore paintings of the 19th century were generally done on paperboard or cloth using both mineral and vegetable pigments. Jewellery, textile patterns and architectural features were done in low relief using gesso work covered with gold leaf.
The subject chosen were mostly from the rich heritage of Indian mythology. Some of the favourite themes were: the coronation of Sri Rama (Rama pattabhisheka), wedding of Shiva and Parvati (Girija kalyana), Sri Rama with bow and arrows (Kodanda-Rama), Sri Krishna with his foster mother (Yashoda-Krishna) and the goddess Chamundeshwari, the family deity of the Mysore royal house. Occasionally portraits of the king and his family were painted.
Though the subjects were religious and mythological, the models were from real life. The delicate and fleshy oval faces depicted in the paintings can still be seen among members of the old nobility. And the architectural backgrounds of many paintings are faithful copies of the architectural features of the Mysore palace.
Though a dying art form now, a few artists still paint in the traditional Mysore style even though the technique involved is long and labourious and the market limited.
- Swami Sivapriyananda