Himalayan Art Resources

Painting Type: Black Ground Main Page

Black Ground Painting | Ground Colours Main Page

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Subjects, Topics & Types
- Black Ground Description (below)
- Source Literature
- Black Silk
- Black Cloth
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

Examples:
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Black Ground (Eastern Tibet, Kham)
- Black Ground (Qianlong Period)
- Vajrabhairava Black Ground
- Others...

Black ground paintings can be dated to the end of the first millennium based on literature. A few painting examples can be seen in the 14th and 15th centuries. The earliest descriptions for black ground paintings are for wrathful figures to be drawn on a black painted surface created from charnel ground ashes. The textual source for black ground paintings is found with the Tantras of Indian Buddhist literature such as the Twenty-five and Fifty Chapter Mahakala Tantras.

Historically and traditionally, black ground paintings were appropriate only for wrathful and fearsome subjects. In the Tantric Buddhist system there are four activities associated with four principal colours: peaceful - white, increasing - yellow, powerful - red, and wrathful - black, or dark blue. In the 20th century, for the purposes of commodity and souvenir art, black ground is used with any type of figure, categorized by appearance or function, that the artist chooses to depict, without regard for religious or artistic tradition.

Jeff Watt 3-2004 [updated 4-2017, 1-2018]