Indian Ink Painting

7,522 artworks, 1,115 artists
Indian ink painting is the creation of works of art on fabric or paper using the ink that is made of soot and binder. Indian ink can be liquid, concentrated or dry, it may contain shellac or gelatin, and it does not dissolve in water after drying. To create a painting, the artist chooses paper of the required density and absorbency, and the image is applied with liquid Indian ink using a brush, pen or wooden stick. The tint of the paper is the functional colour component in the palette. Indian ink painting requires attention from the artist, a firm hand, confident movements — this technique does not suppose mistakes. The tool in the hands of the artist is sensitive to the slightest pressure on the surface and instantly changes the thickness and direction of the drawn line. After the Indian ink dries, the image is not affected by light, water or alcohol. Indian ink allows to create thin lines, highlight details, experiment with tone saturation. Artists use paint in combination with transparent watercolours to create contour lines and a “pictorial skeleton”.

Researchers have found description of soot paints in treatises from Ancient Egypt and China. Artists of the Orient used Indian ink to write on parchment and silk creating the exquisite masterpieces of calligraphy. In Egypt, hieroglyphs carved on stone were shaded with paint. In ancient Rome, Indian ink was used as “court ink”. The perfection of the painting technique was achieved by Chinese masters, who developed a laconic and recognizable artistic language: graceful ornate lines, exquisite patterns, smooth shiny paint texture and a variety of tones. The 15—17th centuries were the finest hour of Indian ink painting in Japan: the masters of the Edo period organized art schools and communities of followers, developed recognizable drawing styles, created a gallery of grotesque portraits and genre scenes, mountain landscapes and images of flowers and animals. In Europe, Indian ink became the favourite medium of the great painters of the 15—17th centuries, such as Rafaello Sanzio, Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn. In the middle of the 18th century, it lost popularity among artists and gave way to sepia, a dye that is made from the pigment of cephalopods. In the 20th century, pop art creators brought back the popularity of the bright pictorial paintings with Indian ink made of synthetic pigments.

The key to the successful realization of the artist’s intention in painting is the quality of materials and their right choice. Drawing paper can be rough and smooth, white or off-white, glossy waterproof and moisture-absorbent cotton. Classical Indian ink is a black liquid that, when diluted with water, gives the painter a palette of shades from light grey to charcoal black. Monochrome paint is deceiving: even in black ink, the eye guesses the finest blue or brown shades. Artists experiment with tools and application techniques: using their brush and “wash” process, they add volume to objects and create tonal transitions, draw lines with a pen and make hatching; chopsticks of soft wood cross the image with finest lines. Chinese masters developed the technique of finger painting, Japanese — expressive spraying. Indian ink drawing does not limit the artist’s choice of tools and the degree of paint dilution.

Paintings in Indian ink:
Grotesque Profile” 1487, “Vitruvian Man” 1492 by Leonardo da Vinci; “Woman Carrying a Child Downstairs” 1636, “Cottage near the Entrance to a Wood” 1644, “Four Mullahs seated under a Tree” 1661 by Rembrandt van Rijn; “The Lying-in-State of the Emperor Paul I” 1779, “The Ruin with Cascade Fountain” 1791 by Giacomo Quarenghi; “Reclining Nude” 1935 by Henri Matisse.

Famous artists: Rafaello Sanzio, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, William Blake, Vincent van Gogh, Utagawa Kunisada, Romain de Tirtoff (Erté), Henri Matisse.