The Chennai Museum has a good collection of paintings and sculptures, both
traditional and modern. The traditional paintings of Tanjore, Rajput, Moghul, Kangra,
Deccani schools and modern paintings in Oil, Tempera, Water Colour, Graphics and Acrylic
mediums. Graphics and modern style metal sculptures are also in the collections. Tanjore
paintings depict the figures of Tanjore Maratha Kings and Queens and Puranic
(mythological) scenes from Tamil Literature. Rajput paintings belong to 16th and 17th
centuries AD. They illustrate the rhythm of love based on musical modes. The court scene of
Emperor Babur, portraits of Jehangir, Shah Jehan, animals and birds are the
subject matter of Moghul paintings. The Kangra paintings represent Krishna
legends as the main subject. There are twelve Portraits of British Governors and
Governors-General in the collections.
Ravi Varma paintings, which are considered as National Treasures, have been placed in a
gallery with Fibre Optic lighting. This system of lighting gives a dramatic lighting effect.
It also removes Ultra-Violet and Infra- Red rays, which are harmful to the paintings. The
Contemporary Art Gallery has been lit using Dichroic Halogen lamps. These lamps reflect back
the heat. Therefore, the paintings are prone to the least possible damage. They also have a
pleasing visual effect. These lighting methods are technology demonstrators and a first for
museums in India at the time of their installation in 2001 AD.
Cave Art Gallery
The new Rock and Cave Art Gallery of the Government Museum, Chennai makes
the Rock and Cave Art found usually in the remote areas easily accessible to the visitor. This
gallery has been set up after field study to the sites and academic research by a team from
the Department of Museum led by the commissioner Dr. R. Kannan, Ph.D., I.A.S. By using the
latest techniques of display, the Museum has simulated the natural atmosphere of the caves. It
has used interactive Son-et-lumiere, Touch Screen and Tran slides to stimulate visitor
Rock Art sites like Perumukkal in South Arcot
(petroglyphs), Alambadi, Keezhvalai in Villupuram District, Vellarikombai and Iduhatti in
Nilgiris District are some of the Rock Art sites on display. Tirumalai in Tiruvanamalai
District, Sittannavasal and Tirugokarnam in Pudukottai District and Mahabalipuram are some of
the Cave Art sculptures and paintings on display.