Nepali art has been deeply influenced by religion since very early times. Early art of Nepal can be seen as stone sculpture and temple architecture. Other art include Newari Paubha and Tibetan Thanka paintings, wood and metal crafts, ceramics and clay pots, textiles, paper, Tibetan carpet, music and literature. Contemporary Nepali art represents two distinct segments, traditional idealistic paintings and the contemporary western style works. The contemporary painting is specially noted for either nature based compositions or compositions based on Tantric elements or social themes. Nepali painters have also earned international reputation for abstract works based on these themes.
Nepalese sculpture reached its zenith in the Lichchhavi period (A.D. 330 - 879). Stone, copper and bronze images from this period show round faces with slanted eyes. A distinguishing feature of Lichchhavi sculptures is their simplicity. The use of clothes and ornaments was quite restrained, many Hindu deities, for example, are shown wearing only a Dhoti (skirt-like lower garment). Buddhist deities were carved to show them wearing long sanhatis (a saffron coloured robe that the Buddhist wear hanging from the shoulders). Lichchhavi period sculptors most often used basalt for their work, first chiselling and then smoothing and varnishing, perhaps with iron dust. The limbs of Lichchhavi period idols were so beautifully executed that it is not possible to find one specimen with a chisel mark. Some of the best examples of Lichchhavi art are the image of "Sleeping Vishnu" in Budhanilkantha, located eight kilometers north of Kathmandu and Vishnu Vikranta or Dwarf Incarnation found near Lazimpat in Kathmandu.
The Swayambhunath and Boudhanath shrines are Nepal's first examples of the stupa or Chaitya style. This style is purely Buddhist in concept and execution. The outstanding feature of the stupa is a hemispherical mound topped by a square base supporting a series of the thirteen circular rings.
Woodcarving has been an integral part of Nepalese architecture, some of the examples being the old palaces of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur and a number of different Viharas (monasteries) around the Valley.
Religious paintings worshipped as icons are known as Paubha in Nepalbhasa and Thangka in Tibetan. The origin of Paubha or Thangka paintings may be attributed to Nepalese artists as early as the ninth or tenth century.