Lest we forget our pioneers of art! Marjorie Hussein
Alongside the country’s art history, for many it was nostalgic trip back in time, especially for those few surviving who were in Lahore at the time of partition or in the early years of the country’s existence as Lahore seemed to be the art locale, with its rich intellectual heritage.
The lecture on each and every artist was accompanied by slides of the artists’ works.
Marjorie’s talk started off with the noted artist Abdul Rehman Chughtai. Chughtai propounded the school of art named after him pivoting around Mughal miniatures.
As Marjorie narrated, Chughtai was born in 1899 in Lahore and received his art education in Lahore. He went to the Mayo School of Art (now National College of Art) from 1911 to 1914. In 1924, he had the honour of having his works exhibited at the British Empire exhibition at Wembley, London, England. In 1948, he published a book on art featuring the Rubbaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
In 1947, he was the first artist to inject the element of Mughal miniatures, thus propounding a new school of art. The new style was identified by the highly chiseled features of the subjects. According to Marjorie, Chughtai also took to writing and wrote books on art. By the time he died in 1975, he had 2,000 paintings to his credit.
Marjorie introduced another artist of the decades gone by, Ustad Allah Bukhsh.
Born in 1895, Allah Bukhsh won the first prize at an all-India exhibition in Bombay. Later, he joined the court of the Maharaja of Patiala. Then he moved to Lahore and changed his spectrum to the rural scene of the Punjab and his paintings were a vivid, winsome portrayal of the Punjabi culture and village life, romanticized the way it is in Punjabi folklore and in the movies.
According to the slides of the artist’s works, one would get the impression that in the latter half of his career, he began to be deeply influenced by mysticism which is so very obvious from his painting of a really elderly man sitting underneath a huge tree with an expression of philosophical mediation in his eyes.
The way the artist has captured the meditative look in the eyes of the old man who could be calling it a day any time, is a master work of art.
Other artists Marjorie talked about were Zubeida Agha, Shakir Ali, Zainul Abedin, and Anna Molka Ahmed. Molka came to live in Lahore in 1939 after marrying Saeed Ahmed in London.
She was one of the founder members of the Punjab University Fine Arts Department and set the trend of taking students on outdoor art assignments. Slides of her works were also screened which indicated that Ahmed was a really lyrical colourist.
Marjorie also talked about Zubeida Agha (1922-1997) who is considered the pioneer of modern art in Pakistan and held exhibitions in Germany, Austria, and Turkey. According to Marjorie Hussain, Agha also took to feminist art.
Fawzia Naqvi, Honorary Director, FDAC, announced that an archives and reference art library would soon be set up to cater to all those aspiring young artists wanting to acquaint themselves with the artistic heritage of the country.
This would be valuable to those young artists who are not very familiar with traditional or conventional art and are just into modern art which requires an overly fertile imagination to make head or tail of a work.
Marjorie Hussain’s talk was highly valuable for the present day young artists who may not be aware of the priceless contribution of their predecessors.