The Painters of Thanjavur were of Telugu Speaking origin,They were and still are as Kshatriy and the community uses the suffix Raja or Raju after their names. The same community practised the arts in other parts of the Karnataka for we find similiar families devoted to this vocation in Andhra and Mysore. Heming way reports "Some good painting is done at Tanjore by men of Raju Caste. They paint on wooden blets or on clothes made beautifully smoothes with a paste of powder and gum and their drawing is correct and the tints employed astonishingly dedicates and even.
But the design are seeminly to the Hindu Gods or Heroes and the finished pictures are grotesquely adorned with sparkling stones or pieces of metal.
The term Thanjavur painting refers to certain styles of painting which reached a characeristic form in the Thanjavur area during the Maratha period. The use of the name of the state may be considered arbitary. Since the style or its sister variations occur also in Mysore and Andhra either contemporaneously or perhaps even earlier than in Thanjavur it self.
Thanjavur painting is dominated by the Iconic style. It might not be out of palace to consider general nature of icons. The Icononic paintings are generally on wooden panels a single sheet of wood of the jack tree is preferred. The pictures are called in Tamil "Palagai Padam" ie. Pictures on wood. Paintings of this type can also be very large, sometimes they are on a monumental scale.
A sheetof card board is pasted with gum made of Tamrind seed to the wood base. Over the card board, one or two layer of cloths are pasted. The cloth is then coated with Sudha or white made of lime. After several coats of white are applied, the surface is smoothened by rubbing with a polished stone or shell. On this prepared surface the drawing is executed with the brush, the indications of all the details including the places where the gems are to be set. on the areas where gold or gems are to be placed a pased called sukkan. Aukkan is un boilded limestone, ground fine and mixed with glue to form a stickey paste, After the Sukkan is applied raising the level surrounding the gems, so that they are firmly held, In the Intervening sapaces are large, decoration such as lines or dots or mouldings are made on the sukkan surface with the brush thus a plastic relief quality is obtained. Over the relief areas of Sukkan the gold is applied. Gold foil is cut into strips, which are pasted on the raised surface with very stiff glue of tamrind seed. The gold covers all the areas of two kinds, flat areas or embossed raised areas. The heaviness of the style is able to bear this rather sumptuous ornamentalation. In the later work the golding becomes very extensive Leaving only the background and parts of the figure in colour.
The Thanjavur styles of painting can also be studied as an interesting problem in influences. In them were adopted various techniques which found a new imagenry the new forms must have been an attempt to satisfy contemporaty demands. We may say that these innovations evloved from the absorbtions of foreign ideas as well as from a reorganisation of indigenous elements. The synthesis achieved have a distinct pattern or style of their own.
The gold work on Thanjavur painting of two distinct varieties. The finer work is the application of pure gold leaf to the surface of the painting. This gold leaf is generally of superior quality and retains its brilliance. One sees its use in the portraits of the earyly kings and in illustrations, where it is sparingly use. Gold sheet is pasted on the painting with gum and rubbed with smooth stone. The other principle kind is the embossed variety. Where the surface of the painting is raised in certain areas and the gold coloured paper is applies to the surface. This guilding also includes gems or cut glass the paper.
Mrs. Milcred Archer in her intoduction to Company Drawings in the India Office Library states " The first region to produce Company painting was the Madras presidency in the South. Tanjore was a centre of Traditional Indian Handpainting and in the second half of the eighteenth Century its artists gradually adjusted their style and subject matter to suit British tastes.