1. Confined to Mughal court:
Mughal painting remained confined to the Mughal court and did not reach the people.
2. A synthesis of Indian and Persian elements:
The Mughal rulers brought Persian painters with them. At the same time they patronized Indian painters and the collaboration between these two schools of painters resulted in the synthesis.
3. Main themes of painting:
Apart from Persian books of fables, themes from Mahabharata were also selected. Indian scenes and landscapes came into vogue.
4. Abundant use of colours:
Golden colours considered to be the symbols of prosperity of the Mughals began to be used increasingly.
5. Climax of Mughal painting:
Jahangir had a very discriminating eye and Mughal painting reached its climax of glory during his reign.
Mughal painting during Babur:
Although a great lover of art, Babur could hardly find time to devote attention to this art as he mostly remained busy in waging war.
Mughal painting during Humayun:
The foundation of Mughal painting was laid by Humayun during his exile from India in Persia and Afghanistan. Two of Persia’s greatest painters Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad came with him to Delhi and helped to produce some paintings.
Mughal painting during Akbar:
Under his orders ‘Humayunama’ was illustrated. About 1200 paintings were drawn on lines pasted on one side of the manuscript of this book. Abul Fazal has listed 15 outstanding painters like Daswant, Basawan, Kesav and Farrukh Beg. More than 100 painters were recruited from different parts of India. Some of the finest paintings are to be found in the ‘Akbarnama’. Here we find happy blending of both Indian and Persian arts.
Mughal painting during Jahangir:
It is generally stated that during Jahangir’s time, the art of painting reached its climax and with him departed its soul. Jahangir was not only interested in painting, he was also its keen judge. He established a gallery of painting in his own garden.
He wrote in his biography, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri: “As regards myself, my liking for painting and my practice in judging it have arrived at such a point that when any work is brought before, me, either of a deceased artist or of those of the present day, without the names being told to me, I can say at the spur of the moment that it is the work of such and such man. And if there be a picture containing many portraits, and each face is the work of a different master, I can discover which face is the work of each of them. If any person has put in the eye and eyebrow of a face, I can perceive whose work the original face is, and who has painted the eye and eyebrows.”
This statement of Jahangir may be regarded as an exaggeration, yet we have to accept that the emperor was not only interested in painting but also a good judge of the art. Jahangir attracted many artists at his court. Painting became almost an industry with a fine regard for division of labour.
One artist drew the outline of scenes of men and animals; the specialist in landscape drew the background; the colourist filled the colours. Sometimes four or five artists worked on a single painting. European art also attracted Jahangir. Manohar and Basawan excelled in portrait painting, Mansaur specialised in painting rare animals and birds and Abul Hasan was expert in designing colour scheme.
Shah Jahan and painting:
He was more interested in architecture and neglected painting. He reduced the number of court painters. Nevertheless Shahjahan name was illustrated.
Mughal painting during Aurangzeb:
Aurangzeb’s lack of interest in painting reduced all the more the number of court painters. Several artists dismissed from his court found shelter in the courts of several Hindu and Muslim provincial rulers. It resulted in the development of painting in Rajasthan and the Punjab hills (Pahari Painting).