Mughal painting reflects an exclusive combination of Indian, Persian and Islamic styles. As the name suggests, these paintings evolved as well as developed during the rule of Mughal Emperors in India, between 16th to 19th century. The Mughal paintings of India revolved around themes, like battles, court scenes, receptions, legendary stories, hunting scenes, wildlife, portraits, etc. The Victoria and Albert Museums of London house a large and impressive collection of Mughal paintings.
History of Mughal Painting
Indian Mughal paintings originated during the rule of Mughal Emperor, Humayun (1530-1540). When he came back to India from the exile, he also brought along two excellent Persian artists, Mir-Sayyid Ali and Abd-us-samad. With time, their art got influenced by the local styles and gradually; it gave rise to the Mughal painting of India. The earliest example of the Mughal style is the Tutinama ('Tales of a Parrot') Painting, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Then, there is the 'Princess of the House of Timur', a painting redone numerous times.
Growth of Mughal Painting
Mughal paintings of India developed as well as prospered under the rule of Mughal Emperors, Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan.
Mughal painting experienced large-scale growth under the reign of Emperor Akbar. During that time, hundreds of artists used to paint under the direction of the two Persian artists. Since the Emperor was fond of tales, one can see the paintings mainly being based on the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Persian epics. Mughal paintings also started illustrating an enhanced naturalism, with animal tales, landscape, portraits, etc.
Emperor Jahangir reigned from 1605 to 1627 and extended great support to various art forms, especially paintings. This period saw more and more refinement in brushwork, along with the use of much lighter and subdued colors. The main themes of the Mughal paintings revolved around the events from Jahangir's own life, along with portraits, birds, flowers, animals, etc. One of the most popular examples of Mughal paintings of this time include the pictorial illustrations of the Jehangir-nama, the biography of Emperor Jahangir.
Under Shah Jahan
The grace and refinement of the Jahangir period was seen at the time of Emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658). However, the sensitivity of the paintings was replaced by coldness and rigidity. The themes of that time revolved around musical parties, lovers on terraces and gardens, ascetics gathered around a fire, etc.
Decline of Mughal Painting
The trend that was seen during the time of Shah Jahan was also found under the rule of Aurangzeb (1658-1707). However, the emperor did not pay too much attention on the growth of the Mughal paintings. Still, the art form continued to survive with the support received from its other patrons. However, gradually, because of diminishing support, a declining trend set in. The time of Muhammad Shah, (1719-1748), did experience a brief revival of the Mughal paintings. Nonetheless, with the arrival of Shah Alam II (1759-1806), the art almost became extinct and another school of painting, known as Rajput paintings, started evolving.