JAMIL NAQSH (1938-2019)
JAMIL NAQSH (1938-2019)

Untitled (Woman and Pigeon)

JAMIL NAQSH (1938-2019)
Untitled (Woman and Pigeon)
signed and dated 'Jamil Naqsh 1971' (lower left); further signed and inscribed 'Jamil Naqsh / Pakistan Art Gallery / 39 C Block 6 / PECHS / KARACHI / Price - Rs 1500/=' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
29½ x 42 in. (74.9 x 106.7 cm.)
Painted in 1971
Acquired directly from the artist, circa late 1980s

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Lot Essay

One of Pakistan’s most celebrated figurative painters, Jamil Naqsh was born in Kairana, Uttar Pradesh, in 1939. His early childhood was marred by his mother’s death when he was five, and then by the wrenching effects of the 1947 Partition of the Subcontinent that separated him from his father and the rest of his family. Having moved to Pakistan, Naqsh gravitated towards the arts and studied at the Mayo School of Arts and Craft in Lahore under the guidance of modern miniaturist, Ustad Mohammad Sharif.

Though Naqsh himself did not work in the miniature format, his training inspired him to use calligraphy and human and animal figures, particularly women and pigeons, as leitmotifs in his oeuvre. His distinctive depictions of the female form over the course of his career were largely inspired by his companion and muse, Najmi Sura, and his pigeons may be traced to his memories of the birds that used to fly through the windows of his ancestral home. Painted together, these figures and birds are symbolic of love, as senders, recipients and carriers of romantic missives.

In this impressive painting from 1971, Naqsh draws from the work of European modernists like Amadeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso, who remained an important source of inspiration throughout his career. By manipulating shades of red and brown in mottled layers with fine cross-hatching, Naqsh creates a fresco-like textured background that provides a sense of depth to the work and simultaneously draws focus to the central female figure.

With a few simple divisions on the left, Naqsh makes it appear as if his subject is drawing back a curtain from a sunny window, having perhaps just received word from a lover through the feathered courier that has alighted on her arm. In the shadowy recesses behind her, the head and legs of a reclining woman are barely visible, possibly representing another more anxious moment in time when this news was yet to be received. Through this palimpsest-like composition, Naqsh creates a layered world where love inspires both melancholy and joy, despair and hope.

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