Browse Lots

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
ABDUR RAHMAN CHUGHTAI (1894-1975)
<![CData[THE MODERN MASTERS OF PAKISTAN As a nation, Pakistan is far younger than its art, even in terms of its modernists. The melting pot of creativity that emerged in the region during the early and mid-20th century was the product of the eclectic conditions artists found themselves in the preceding years. When the British Raj replaced the Sikh rulers of Punjab in 1850, the tradition of royal patronage was severed and painters were forced to seek alternative sources of income. With British rule also came the unavoidable dissemination of Western aesthetics and techniques. One of the greatest extollers of Western aesthetics was the anglicizing Mayo School, which would later transform into the National College of Arts - ironically today it is the last art school that still teaches the traditional techniques of miniature painting. Apart from academic and orientalizing realism, new hybrid styles such as Company School painting emerged, influenced by the tastes of British patrons. Art production and consumption in the 19th century was split between works being produced for a foreign audience and in the bazaars for the native patrons of Pakistan. Allah Bux and his contemporaries sought experience elsewhere such as Bombay, where commercial and theatrical establishments provided the skills and training artists craved, before returning to Lahore to compete fervently for patronage, awards and exhibitions. It is against this backdrop that Pakistani modernism emerged. By 1920, the influence of the Bengal School stretched from its heartland of Calcutta all the way to Lahore. Disciples of Abanindranath Tagore such as Samanendranath Gupta became teachers at the Mayo School shortly before Abdur Rahman Chughtai (1913 and 1916 respectively). Chughtai, who also studied at the Mayo School, was in fact taught by Gupta and deeply influenced by aspects of the Bengal School, seen particularly in his wash technique. However, during the following decade, Chughtai developed a distinct style that would rival the Bengal School and emerged as one of the most significant painters in Lahore. The most accomplished draftsman of the period, Chughtai even ran his own printing press from the late 1920s. By the 1940s, Chughtai was recognized as one of the leading practitioners across the subcontinent with particular patronage in Hyderabad. Artists like Allah Bux followed a less eclectic path, harnessing an academic orientalizing Western Style absorbed during his time in Bombay and expounding this with unparalleled virtuosic ability. Lot 724 emphasizes Bux’s ability to create a lyrical romanticism that made his works instantly accessible to native and foreign patrons alike. Bux’s following was such that by 1976 he inaugurated the Allah Bux Academy.Sadequain, one of the preeminent Pakistani artists of the 20th century, represented a complete break with the early modernists. His visual representations of Urdu poetry, particularly by Iqbal and Ghalib used calligraphy itself as art, and in doing so evoked an essence of Islam as well as a sense of patriotism. Throughout his career the artist undertook several large scale public works, most notably the murals in the Lahore Museum.Pakistani painters Jalal Shemza and Ahmend Parvez also represent this new generation of modernist pioneers. Shemza graduated from the Mayo School of Art in Lahore in 1947, the same year the Indian Subcontinent was divided under Partition. Shemza’s modernist engagement already manifested itself in the early 50s when he founded the Lahore Art Circle, a group which included Parvez and that championed abstraction of forms in painting. These instincts would travel with the artist to London remaining with him throughout his career. Both Parvez and Shemza arrived in London in 1955-6, where Shemza developed his calligraphic abstraction in the mid-1960s. His disciplined use of modular shapes and lines construct architectonic totems, his own formal building blocks fusing calligraphy and geometry adhere to a strict visual code. Parvez also initially embraced abstract geometries, working as part of the New Vision Group, a collective of like-minded artists, later returning to allusive figuration. In this way, Shemza and Parvez created styles that were for the first time transnational but inextricably tied to Lahore. PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF AMBASSADOR JAMSHEED AND BEGUM ARNAZ MARKER]]>
ABDUR RAHMAN CHUGHTAI (1894-1975)

Untitled (Lady with Bird)

Details
ABDUR RAHMAN CHUGHTAI (1894-1975)
Untitled (Lady with Bird)
signed in Urdu (lower right)
ink and watercolor on paper
26 x 19¼ in. (66 x 48.9 cm.)
Provenance
Acquired in Karachi, circa 1960s

Condition report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

Abdur Rahman Chughtai remains one of the most acclaimed and revered Pakistani artists of the Twentieth Century. The artist began his training at the Mayo School of Art, Lahore in 1911, where he was taught by Samarendranath Gupta, who was a pupil of Abanindranath Tagore. He would later become part of the Mayo faculty in 1916, when he was appointed head of photolithography. The influence of the Bengal School is visible in Chughtai’s early work, but what distinguishes the artist is his skill as a draughtsman. This skill also allowed him to become one of the most successful printmakers in the region. Lots 720-722 are a testament to his skill and illuminate how this led to the global dissemination of his works. By 1928, Chughtai had started his own printing press.

However, Chughtai’s masterworks are his paintings which extol all the influences he had developed. The delicate flowing lines and gem like tones in Untitled (Lady with Bird) owe much to Pahari, Mughal and Rajput miniature paintings, which the artist collected fervently as early as the 1920s. In this painting, an anonymous woman stands in front of Mughal architecture, an influence which perhaps comes from Chughtai’ s early apprenticeship with Miran Baksh at the Wazir Khan Mosque. While often famed for his poetic metaphors and portraits of famous personalities from Islamic history, Chughtai also championed the poor and downtrodden, elevating them to heroic and stoic figures of beauty and pride in his paintings.

Jamsheed Kaikobad Ardeshir Marker and his wife Arnaz acquired this work in Karachi in the 1960s when Chughtai was at the peak of his career. A renowned Pakistani diplomat, Marker was the nation’s top envoy to the United States, proving a key figure in their relationship for several administrations, and working particularly closely with Ronald Reagan. Jamsheed Marker also represented Pakistan in over fifteen countries, including Ghana, Romania, the Soviet Union, Canada, East Germany, West Germany and Japan, in a career spanning more than three decades, earning him the peerless distinction of the world's longest-serving ambassador and ambassador to more countries than any other person before retiring in 2007.

Marker was a patron and friend of many Pakistani artists from the 1950s. During the course of his lengthy diplomatic career he continued to promote Pakistani art. Whilst ambassador to France, he brought back paint and other supplies for Sadequain for the work on the ceiling of Frere Hall, and during his tenure as ambassador to the United Nations, he arranged an exhibition for Gulgee at the mission in New York. The Jamsheed Marker collection includes works by Chughtai, Jamini Roy, Jamil Naqsh and several others. Most of these paintings were bought directly from the artists or from friends of the artists with others acquired at exhibitions in respected galleries in Karachi in the 1950s and 1960s. Much of his collection traveled with him to embassies around the world; other pieces remained in family homes in Karachi and the United States. The present painting has hung in the Marker family’s apartment in New York since the 1970s.
;

More from South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art

View All
View All