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Thai art

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Title: Thai art  
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Subject: Thailand, Asian art, Culture of Thailand, Judiciary of Thailand, Economy of Thailand
Collection: Art by Nationality, Thai Art
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Thai art

Traditional Thai art is primarily composed of Buddhist art and scenes from the Indian epics. Traditional Thai sculpture almost exclusively depicts images of the Buddha. Traditional Thai paintings usually consist of book illustrations, and painted ornamentation of buildings such as palaces and temples.


  • Painting 1
  • Dvaravati period 2
  • Lanna period 3
  • Sukhothai period 4
  • Ayutthaya period 5
  • Bangkok period 6
  • Contemporary 7
  • See also 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


A depiction of a white elephant in 19th century Thai art.

Traditional Thai paintings showed subjects in two dimensions without perspective. The size of each element in the picture reflected its degree of importance. The primary technique of composition is that of apportioning areas: the main elements are isolated from each other by space transformers. This eliminated the intermediate ground, which would otherwise imply perspective. Perspective was introduced only as a result of Western influence in the mid-19th century.

The most frequent narrative subjects for paintings were or are: the Jataka stories, episodes from the life of the Buddha, the Buddhist heavens and hells, themes derived from the Thai versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, not to mention scenes of daily life. Some of the scenes are influenced by Thai folklore instead of following strict Buddhist iconography.

Dvaravati period

The Dvaravati period lasted from the 6th until the 13th century. A number of temples and sculptures have survived from that period.

Lanna period

The Kingdom of Lanna was a state in what is now northern Thailand from the 13th to 18th centuries.

Sukhothai period

Phra Achana, Wat Si Chum, Big Buddha image in Sukhothai

The Sukhothai period began in the 14th century in the Sukhothai kingdom. Buddha images of the Sukhothai period are elegant, with sinuous bodies and slender, oval faces. This style emphasized the spiritual aspect of the Buddha, by omitting many small anatomical details. The effect was enhanced by the common practice of casting images in metal rather than carving them. This period saw the introduction of the "walking Buddha" pose. Everything has its own purposes.

Sukhothai artists tried to follow the canonical defining marks of a Buddha, as they are set out in ancient Pali texts:

Sukhothai also produced a large quantity of glazed ceramics in the Sawankhalok style, which were traded throughout south-east Asia.

Ayutthaya period

The surviving art from this period was primarily executed in stone, characterised by juxtaposed rows of Buddha figures. In the middle period, Sukhothai influence dominated, with large bronze or brick and stucco Buddha images, as well as decorations of gold leaf in free-form designs on a lacquer background. The late period was more elaborate, with Buddha images in royal attire, set on decorative bases.

Bangkok period

This period is characterized by the further development of the Ayutthaya style, rather than by more great innovation. One important element was the Krom Chang Sip Mu (Organization of the Ten Crafts), originally founded in Ayutthaya, which was responsible for improving the skills of the country's craftsmen. Paintings from the mid-19th century show the influence of Western art.


See also

Further reading

  • Lerner, Martin (1984). The flame and the lotus: Indian and Southeast Asian art from the Kronos collections. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

External links

  • Rama IX Art Museum Virtual museum of Thai contemporary artists. Listings of museums, galleries, exhibitions and venues. Contains lots of information on Thai artists and art activities.
  • Golden Triangle Art Introduction of contemporary art and artists living and working in Northern Thailand and Myanmar. Guide to art galleries, art News and exhibitions with focus on Chiang Mai.
  • Thai Art Gallery
  • Thai Buddhist Art Thai Buddhist Art Website Project to Promote and play a part in the growth of the Thai Fine Art Community of Collectors and Aficionados. Representing a host of Thailand's Most Outstanding Artists.
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