School of Art

Whenever we came through the word “School”, we develop an image of a building where few subjects either related to education or art being taught. But when we are talking about the School of Art in History, one must not confuse with any modern-day school or institution. These schools of art actually meant carrying specific art in a localized area for many generations.

Mathura School of Art

Emergence – It was 1st and oldest among these three schools of art. The Mathura School of Art was an Indian form of art which flourished from the 1st to 3rd centuries A. D.

Important Sites– Mathura city and Jamalpur village are the most important sites. A large number of images have discovered at these places during excavation. Mathura was the main center of school but their images were exported almost throughout the Gangetic region because the image from this school found from Sanchi, Sarnath, Kushinagar & Shravasti (Uttar Pradesh).

Religion Associated

At first, the artist of Mathura made images of Brahmanical deities such as Vishnu, Surya & Shiva. Shiva was depicted in various forms such as Ardhanarishwar, Uma – Maheshwar, and Trimurti. Images of Goddess Parvati were also made. Surya was a portrait in his Charit drawn by four horses at the dawn time. Images of non-Brahmnical deities such as Krishna and Balrama were also made.

Mathura School of Art

Folk deities like Yaksha & Yashikini were also represented in images. Buddhist images were also made by an artist of Mathura in large numbers. Before the tradition of image worship, the Buddhists used to worship, the stupa, Bodhi tree, an empty throne, footprints, and Dharma Chakra (wheel). In the 2nd century BC, no person had seen Buddha because this artist used their imagination to make images of Buddha.

Foreign Influence

In the beginning, Mathura School was indigenous in nature. Later on, when Shakas & Kushanas established their rule over the Mathura region, this school came under foreign influence. The influence of Greek-Roman art started visibly on Mathura School.

Typical Features

The artist of Mathura School made beautiful images, among these images of Buddha & female images were most prominent. Buddha was depicted either in Padmasana Mudra or in standing form Abhay Mudra has been used commonly. The head & face of Buddha is clean-shaven. Breasts are prominent upper half of the body and are half-covered with the sheet moving across with the right shoulder remaining bare.

The artist of Mathura attached greater significance to the depiction of inner beauty. The Buddha’s of Mathura reflect inner calmness & spiritual grace. Facial expressions and emotions have been portrait with great success in the images of Mathura School. The female images reflect the freedom of movement and gesture. These images are in erotic form.


The Mathura School declined in 6th century AD because of the reduction in demand & loss of patronage. By this time the secondary & tertiary economic activities had declined quite significantly. The level of prosperity was going down; availability of surplus with people was no longer that much so that they could patronize the artist. Temple building activities had also lost significance. These entire factors severely affect the demand for image. As a result of which, the Mathura School of art declined.

Gandhara School of Art

This has emerged during the second half of the 2nd century BC. The tradition of making images was adopted by the artist of Gandhara School from Mathura. It flourished in the North-Eastern region of the Indian subcontinent covering parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Meditating-Buddha Gandhar school of Art
Meditating Buddha Gandhar

Takshila, Bimaran, Hadda, Jalalabad, Takht-i-Bahi, Bamiya, Shah Ji ki Dheri, Bagram were the prominent sites. The artist of Gandhara made Buddhist images only Buddha and Bodhisattva were portraits in images. Secular elements were absent. Shakas & Kushanas patronized this school of art. In the beginning, the image was made up of wood. Later on, locally found the dark grey stone was used for making images. Artist used Stucco (plaster) and Terracotta as well for making images. It was deeply influenced by the features of Greek-Roman art. The Hellenistic influence was clearly visible on Gandhar’s images. Because of this Gandhara School is also known as “Greek-Roman”, “Indo-Roman”, “Greek-Buddhist” & “Indo-Greek” school of art.

Gandhara School declined in 5th century BC because of the Huna invasion. Hunas were a warlike tribe, they came from Central Asia. They attacked the Buddhist monasteries. Their presence in the North\-Western region obstructed trade & commerce being practiced through land route. All these factors doomed the faith of the Gandhara School of art. The images of Gandhara School are most beautiful. Buddha of Gandhara School appears to be like the Greek God Apollo (God of beauty). Artists pay great attention to minute details but the image of Gandhara School facial expression and emotions Mechanical rigidity is visible in these images.

Muscular body, curly hair, and transparent drapery (cloth) were used in Gandhara’s image. Gandhara Buddha is a portrait-like kings & princes of the Greek-Roman world. Buddha is wearing an ornament & a toga-like dress. Halo (light coming behind head) is depicted in the image of Gandhara School. Gandhara’s image was in great demand in India & the outside world. When the artist of Gandhara failed to meet this growing demand they outsource images from Mathura School.

Amravati School of Art

Amravati Stupa, Amaravati school of art
Amravati Stupa

This school of sculpture was flourished in the second half of the 2nd century BC. It was flourished in the valley of river Krishna, the Godavari in Amaravati, Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. Amaravati, Nagarjuni Konda, Goli, Ghantasala, and Vengi were the prominent site. Vengi was the most important site & because of this school was also known as “Vengi School of Art”. Only Buddhist images were found.

Secular images were also made. These are in the form of female images, trees, animals, and birds. In the beginning, this school was patronized by Satavahanas. Later on, Ikshavakus & Vakataka patronized it. The white marble used for making images. It was indigenous in character from beginning to end. It was free from foreign influence.

This school of art shifted its center to Kanchipuram Mahabalipuram, Tanjore under Pallavas & Cholas. It didn’t decline for many centuries & continued to flourish at least the 13th century (i.e. Chola period). The Amaravati images are famous for their big size. Lifesize (6-7 feet) images were made in large numbers some of them are as high as 16 feet.

The artist of Amaravati School focused on the depiction of famine beauty a large number of the female images in various posture & mood such as sitting, dancing, bending & flying having found. The Yaksha & Yakshini of Amaravati School depicts love, grace & beauty. The elegance of the highest order can be seen in images of Amaravati School even birds & animals, men & vegetation having treated very elegantly. The images of Amaravati School were carried to Shri Lanka, Myanmar, Java, and Sumatra, Cambodia.