Tibetan Art

Tibetan Art

Tibetan Art

Tibetan Art


This book sets out to acquaint the reader with the Art of Tibet, which is relatively little known in Europe. It is not intended as a narrow, specialist study. The experience of the two photographers in travelling about Tibet in 1953-1955, and the co-operation they received from Dr. L. Jisl (an expert on Tibetan iconography) have made it possible to draw on new documentary sources and material from Tibet itself as well as material belonging to museums and private collections in Europe.

This publication will also serve as a guide to anyone wishing to make a closer study of the various forms of art of the people living in Tibet.

The world has been in the habit of looking upon Tibet as an austere land -- perhaps because one has an impression of limitless highland plains, barren mountain sides and icy peaks of mountain ranges hidden eternally in mists. To some extent this viewpoint is justified. But the over-all impression is rather one of a colourful land. The sky overhead is blue, ranging from blue-black to a sort of clear silvery light blue. Yet another shade of blue are the lakes in which the azure sky is mirrored. And how different again is the blue of the snow and of the drifting clouds, the tussocks of lichen or the blue starlets of flowering mosses.

At dusk all these tinges melt into mauve, then into purple and finally into the black of the night.

Other colours abound. The white of the monastery buildings and striped houses is repeated in the foam of the cataracts. The temple roofs flash golden, like the waterfalls lit by the rays of the sun. The Lamas wear dark red cowls, and the same colour enlivens the striped plaster walls of their abodes. The yellow of the brocade gowns of the nobility is seen also in the humble bell-flowers on the mountain pastures. The pink blouses worn by the Tibetan girls on feast days seem to take their colour from the pale pink rhododendron blooms which nestle among the thick and shiny leaves. The hand-woven cloth called "pulo" dazzles with its shades of brown and orange.

All the colours of the spectrum are seen, including the colours of the rainbow which frame Tibetan church banners. Tibetan art, too, revels in colour. In contrast to the stark grey of the rock cliffs, the self-taught artists imprint into the carved contours of the gigantic Buddhas bright lines in red earth which the hot sun then bakes into lasting beauty.

Thousands of Mani stone heaps rise in memory of saints or famous Lamas, each stone with a different natural tinge -- blue, pink, yellow -- just as they had when the pilgrims picked them up along the river banks. A prayer has been decoratively engraved on each of these stones, often showing masterly execution in a variety of colours.

Tibetan artists, painters as well as sculptors, are experts at using colours. Though the colour scheme is often . . .

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