Most Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, temples and other religious structures in the Himalayas were decorated with Tibetan Buddhist wall paintings. Despite much destruction in Tibet itself, many of these survive, the dry climate of the Tibetan plateau assisting their survival, as the wet Indian climate has reduced survival of paintings from there. There are some regional differences, but the techniques described here cover the traditional wall paintings across this area. The wall paintings were executed on earthen plaster with the secco-technique.A secco-technique is a painting technique in which the pigments with their binder are employed to paint onto a dry (Italian: secco) wall.
The support for wall paintings in made of earthen plaster, usually consisting of more than one layer of earthen plaster, in which the last layer was rendered as smoothly as possible. The support was covered by a smoothened ground, generally in white. Materials employed for the ground may be kaolin, chalk or gypsum, or any other white material deriving from an inert mineral.To organise the painting, preliminary sketches were carried out. Generally this involved the geometric layout of the design with the help of snapped lines and/or rulers. Compasses were employed mainly for the construction of mandalas. Figures were roughly sketched, and then rendered with precise contours. These outlines are usually in black. Repetitive designs were in some cases achieved with the use of stencils.
Traditionally, colour codes were employed to accelerate and simplify the colouring of the various ornaments and figures. For this purpose each section was given a number from 1-9 or an abbreviation of the name of the colour.Some paintings were embellished with raised ornaments (pastiglia-technique). Either a semi-liquid paste was applied to the painting surface, or a stamp had been previously produced from a mould and then applied onto the painting surface. Depending on the final visible colour of a painting, specific colours for the underpainting were employed. An ochre for example has an underpainting in a bright yellow. Similar to Tibetan paintings, the traditional painting was carried out with shading systems, such as a dry or wet shading system. Shading may be obtained with glazes, or with one of the dry shading systems, such as the dot-shading technique in which minuscule dots of colour cover the paintings surface. Specific details were then achieved with small paint brushes employing a variety of colours: black, white, ochre or red.
Specific ornaments of a representation were enriched with gold. This was either applied as a gold leaf or as powder in a binder.
Fresco is a technique of mural painting executed upon freshly laid, or wet lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-powder pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the plaster, the painting becomes an integral part of the wall. The word fresco is derived from the Italian adjective fresco meaning "fresh", and may thus be contrasted with fresco-secco or secco mural painting techniques, which are applied to dried plaster, to supplement painting in fresco. The fresco technique has been employed since antiquity and is closely associated with Italian Renaissance painting.
For more than a thousand years, Tibetan artists have played a key role in the cultural life of Tibet. From designs for painted furniture to elaborate murals in religious buildings, their efforts have permeated virtually every facet of life on the Tibetan plateau. The vast majority of surviving artworks created before the mid-20th century are dedicated to the depiction of religious subjects, with the main forms being thangka, distemper paintings on cloth, Tibetan Buddhist wall paintings, and small statues in bronze, or large ones in clay, stucco or wood. They were commissioned by religious establishments or by pious individuals for use within the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and were manufactured in large workshops by monks and lay artists, who are mostly unknown.
The Lahaul and Spiti district in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh consists of the two formerly separate districts of Lahaul and Spiti. The present administrative centre is Keylong in Lahaul. Before the two districts were merged, Kardang was the capital of Lahaul, and Dhankar the capital of Spiti. The district was formed in 1960, and is the fourth least populous district in India.
A thangka, variously spelt as thangka, tangka, thanka, or tanka, is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. Thangkas are traditionally kept unframed and rolled up when not on display, mounted on a textile backing somewhat in the style of Chinese scroll paintings, with a further silk cover on the front. So treated, thangkas can last a long time, but because of their delicate nature, they have to be kept in dry places where moisture will not affect the quality of the silk. Most thangkas are relatively small, comparable in size to a Western half-length portrait, but some are extremely large, several metres in each dimension; these were designed to be displayed, typically for very brief periods on a monastery wall, as part of religious festivals. Most thangkas were intended for personal meditation or instruction of monastic students. They often have elaborate compositions including many very small figures. A central deity is often surrounded by other identified figures in a symmetrical composition. Narrative scenes are less common, but do appear.
Tibet developed a distinct culture due to its geographic and climatic conditions. While influenced by neighboring cultures from China, India, and Nepal, the Himalayan region's remoteness and inaccessibility have preserved distinct local influences, and stimulated the development of its distinct culture.
Fresco-secco is a wall painting technique where pigments mixed with an organic binder and/or lime are applied onto a dry plaster. The paints used can e.g. be casein paint, tempera, oil paint, silicate mineral paint. If the pigments are mixed with lime water or lime milk and applied to a dry plaster the technique is called lime secco painting. The secco technique contrasts with the fresco technique, where the painting is executed on a layer of wet plaster.
Sinopia is a dark reddish-brown natural earth pigment, whose reddish colour comes from hematite, a dehydrated form of iron oxide. It was widely used in Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages for painting, and during the Renaissance it was often used on the rough initial layer of plaster for the underdrawing for a fresco. The word came to be used both for the pigment and for the preparatory drawing itself, which may be revealed when a fresco is stripped from its wall for transfer.
Sherab Palden Beru was an exiled Tibetan thangka artist who played a key role in preserving the art-form through the training of western students over a period of more than four decades.
Palpung Monastery is the name of the congregation of monasteries and centers of the Tai Situpa lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism as well as the name of the Tai Situ's monastic seat in Derge, Kham. Palpung means "glorious union of study and practice". It originated in the 12th century and wielded considerable religious and political influence over the centuries.
The conservation-restoration of the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel was one of the most significant conservation-restorations of the 20th century.
The Tree of physiology is a Tibetan Thangka depicting human physiology and certain pathological transformations.
The imagery of the Refuge Tree, also referred to as Refuge Assembly, Refuge Field, Merit Field, Field of Merit or Field of Accumulation is a key part of a visualization and foundational meditation practice common to Tantric Buddhism. Based on descriptions in the liturgical texts of various traditions, Refuge Trees are often depicted in thangkas employed as objects of veneration, mnemonic devices and as a precursor to the contents being fully visualized by the Buddhist practitioner during the Refuge Formula or evocation.
McLeod Ganj is a suburb of Dharamshala in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is known as "Little Lhasa" or "Dhasa" because of its large population of Tibetans. The Tibetan government-in-exile is headquartered in McLeod Ganj.
Nako is a village in the Himalayas of northern India, located near the Indo-China border in the Trans-Himalayan region of Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh. Nako Lake is a prominent feature here where it borders the village. Nako Monastery, dated to 1025, is located in the village as well as several other Buddhist chortens.
Likir Monastery or Likir Gompa (Klud-kyil) is a Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, Northern India. It is located at 3700m elevation, approximately 52 kilometres (32 mi) in the west of Leh. It is picturesquely situated on a little hill in the valley, in Likir village near the Indus River about 9.5 kilometres (5.9 mi) north of the Srinigar to Leh highway. It belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism and was established in 1065 by Lama Duwang Chosje, under the command of the fifth king of Ladakh, Lhachen Gyalpo (Lha-chen-rgyal-po).
Alchi Monastery or Alchi Gompa is a Buddhist monastery, known more as a monastic complex (chos-'khor) of temples in Alchi village in the Leh District, under the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council of the Ladakh Union Territory. The complex comprises four separate settlements in the Alchi village in the lower Ladakh region with monuments dated to different periods. Of these four hamlets, Alchi monastery is said to be the oldest and most famous. It is administered by the Likir Monastery.
Buddhism in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh has been a long recorded practice. The spread of Buddhism in the region has occurred intermediately throughout its history. Starting in the 3rd century BCE, Buddhism was propagated by the Maurya Empire under the reign of Ashoka. The region would remain an important center for Buddhism under the Kushan Empire and its vassals. Over the centuries the following of Buddhism has greatly fluctuated. Yet by experiencing revivals and migrations, Buddhism continued to be rooted in the region, particularly in the Lahaul, Spiti and Kinnaur valleys.
The region of Shekhawati in Rajasthan is remarkable for its wealth of mural paintings which adorn the walls of many buildings, including havelis.
The conservation and restoration of Tibetan thangkas is the physical preservation of the traditional religious Tibetan painting form known as a thangka. When applied to thangkas of significant cultural heritage, this activity is generally undertaken by a conservator-restorer.
A thangka wall is, in Tibetan religious architecture, a stone-built structure used for hanging giant, or monumental, appliqued thangkas, or scrolls, in some of the major Buddhist monasteries of Tibet. These giant thangkas are called gos ku, goku, gheku, kiku in Tibetan. The thangka wall stands on a hillside from where it overlooks the monastic settlement. Its form is that of a narrow, elongated and tall rectangular building with a battered façade and a flat roof surrounded by a parapet.