Painting of Thailand

A mural painting at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha has the epic Ramakian as its theme

    Classical Thai painting was confined to temple and palace interiors and book illustrations. Mural painting was developed to a high degree in the belief that walls should enhance the beauty of the religious and royal objects they surrounded.

    The mural paintings about Phra Wessondon Chadok at the windows,
    Wat Ubpakub, Chiang Mai

    Traditional Thai painting was typically Asian in that conventional perspective was ignored and figures were large or small depending on their importance. Shadows were unknown and space was neutral rather than atmospheric. Figures were two dimensional and landscapes were merely sketchily- treated backdrops for detailed action. A technique of pictorial composition called "apportioning areas" was employed, comparable to the "bird's eye view" of Western painting. By this method, the positions of the key scenes were assigned first and then closed off with "space transformers" that effectively isolated them from considerations of perspective by doing away with any surrounding intermediate or middle ground.

    Mural painting of silk weaving at Ubosod Wat Phumin

    The traditional Thai painter had five primary pigments, the close equivalents of scarlet lake, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, pipe-clay white, and pot-black. With these he was able to produce as many other colors. All were tempura colors, finely ground powders that were stirred into bowls containing a glue binder, using sticks to work it to the desired strength and consistency. With these colors the traditional artists from uniquely beautiful compositions in form to temple murals, cloth banners, and manuscript illustrations.

    The Mural painting of Chadok (tale) at Ubosod Wat Pho Chai, Nong Khai

    The earliest surviving murals are characterized by earth colors made from natural pigments. They depicted excerpts from the Jataka stories, episodes from the Buddha's life, scenes of Buddhist heaven and hells, rows of gods, and scenes of contemporary Thai life. The murals in Bangkok's Wat Suthat and Thon Buri's Wat Suwannaram are particularly fine examples.

    Pha Taem - the cliffs are adorned with 4,000-year-old paintings, Ubon Ratchathani

    The traditional Thai painting technique continued into the Bangkok period, when colors became richer thanks to pigments imported from China. Around the middle of the 19th century, artists began using chemical pigments and Western perspective. Spatial values were eschewed for atmospheric effects, and opulent gold leaf and bold primary colors radically altered the delicate harmony of the old subdued earth colors.

    A Thai classical marionette made by Chakrapan Posayakrit

    Thai painters at present, through trained in the traditional style, have been influenced by Western styles and techniques. However, some have been able to integrate the various styles and produce significant art. Chakrapan Posayakrit, for example, while best know for his portraits, is also a painter of scences and characters based on Thai literature which manage to convey a flavor that is at once modern and traditional.