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Untitled (Standing Lady)

Untitled (Standing Lady)
signed in Urdu (lower left)
watercolor on paper
19½ x 13 5/8 in. (48.3 x 34.6 cm.)
Private Collection, Hyderabad
Private Collection, Dubai
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2002

Lot Essay

Abdur Rahman Chughtai is remembered today as one of the most distinguished Pakistani artists of the Twentieth Century. Chughtai began his training at the Mayo School of Art in Lahore in 1911, where he was taught by Samarendranath Gupta, who was a pupil of Abanindranath Tagore. The influence of the Bengal School is apparent in the artist's early works, but what distinguished Chughtai is his exceptional skill as a draftsman, and the lyricism and painterly quality exhibited in each of his works.

In his paintings, which allowed him a larger surface than his etchings and drawings, he indulged in exceptionally detailed compositions with subtle, flowing lines. Described as “inaudible poetry made visible” (J. Bautze, Interaction of Cultures: Indian and Western Painting, 1780-1910, Virginia, 1998, p. 137), Chughtai’s attractive watercolors are based on subjects ranging from Buddhist stories and Hindu epics to Islamic history, illustrative paintings for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and portraits based on Ghalib’s poetry.

The delicacy of the line contouring his female figures, the richly detailed rendering of their ornaments and the drapery of their flowing gowns illustrate Chughtai’s conscious resolution to revive the Persian style of miniature painting, with close attention to Mughal aesthetics. The unique style he developed has been called ‘Persian-Mughal mannerism’ (I.U. Hassan, Painting in Pakistan, Lahore, 1991, p. 37) and bears the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings the artist encountered in London and other cities during his travels in Europe.

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