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These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, VIRGINIA


signed in Urdu (lower left and upper right)
ink and watercolour on paper
22 ¾ x 18 1/8 in. (57.8 x 45.9 cm.)
Acquired directly from the artist, circa 1964-65
Sotheby’s New York, 10 October 1997, Lot 17
Acquired from the above by the present owner
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Lot Essay

Abdur Rahman Chughtai is remembered today as one of the most distinguished Pakistani artists of the 20th century, although much of his work reflects a common South Asian cultural heritage. Chughtai began his training at the Mayo School of Art in Lahore in 1911. There he was taught by Samarendranath Gupta, who was himself a pupil of Abanindranath Tagore. The influence of the Bengal School is visible in Chughtai’s early work, but what distinguishes Chughtai is his exceptional skill as a draughtsman. Above all, he painted in larger formats which gave him the opportunity to indulge in exceptionally detailed compositions with bold flowing lines. Chughtai’s works include subjects ranging from Buddhist themes and Hindu epics to Islamic history, illustrative paintings for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and portraits based on Ghalib’s poetry.

“He retains the distinctive mood and posture of the Persian tradition but gives his paintings a special quality of his own in lovely color combination, in delicious lines that seem to be less lines of painting than of some inaudible poetry made visible, in folds of drapery that are never mere coverings to or discoverings of the human body…, in the decorative backgrounds that call the imagination away from the tyranny of the actual, into free citizenship of the realm of romance.” (J. Bautze, Interaction of Cultures: Indian and Western Painting, 1780-1910, Virginia, 1998, p. 137)

The present painting is an example of the delicate portrayal of women in Chughtai’s oeuvre. It illustrates his conscious resolution to work in the Persian tradition with his use of fine lines and wash technique. The contemplative maiden is almost presented like a Mughal portrait in profile, richly adorned with jewellery, wearing a saffron robe decorated with geometric motifs and scrolling floral vines, as she gazes pensively into the distance.

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