Jamil Naqsh

Birth: 1939


1951-53, Traveled through South Asia studying art

1953-54, Mayo School of Art, Lahore. Studied miniature painting

Studied in National College of Arts for two years, but didn't graduate


Biography and Achievement:

The quintessential woman and dove, a theme Naqsh has honed to perfection. It is the treatment of this theme, which varies with every painting. The mood is distinct in each piece, but the woman and the dove are always in sync. She is still; he is in constant motion. He flits in front of her face, he perches on an arm or he alights on her head. The doves are nostalgic, a reminder of his childhood in Kariana. A home he left at the partition of the Sub-Continent and never returned to.

An avid artist, he enrolled at the Mayo School of art in 1953 and was introduced to the art of miniature painting. He was taught by Ustad Haji Sharif, the father of miniature painting in Pakistan. The structure of an art school could not hold him, and he abandoned Mayo to work full time with Ustad Sharif. He was driven, and he absorbed the techniques unique to Mughal miniature painting. But there were other movements that were rife at Mayo at that time, and Shakir Ali who had recently returned from Europe was teaching his students the latest cubist and abstract styles. Naqsh was not his student but Shakir Ali’s influence would be obvious in his work soon.

Naqsh using the miniature technique, moved towards abstraction. This was the movement of the day, and allowed the artist to paint from his subconscious rather than depict the realism, which had been the style of miniature painting for centuries. Jamil Naqsh’s juxtaposition was his own, the combination of Mughal technique and post war abstractionism.

His first exhibition was at the Karachi Council of Arts in 1959. The nude made its appearance in 1962 and the dove in 1964 and solo exhibitions followed for the next decade. Jamil Naqsh. In 1989 Naqsh began painting major series, which would be critical additions to his body of work. ‘Mother & Child’, ‘Modern Manuscripts’, and his ‘Horse Series’, a homage to sculptor Marino Marini ensued. The Jamil Naqsh Museum and Trust were set up in 1999. Naqsh donated one thousand paintings to the trust to preserve his work for the nation.

Naqsh’s presence on the art landscape of Pakistan was given its due when he became the subject of an extensive retrospective at the Mohatta Palace Museum in December 2003: Jamil Naqsh-A Retrospective

He exhibited his provocative "Lonely girl series" in 1971 and it is reported "even the supposedly more urbane art crowd of Karachi created a 'furore' over them, which prompted the artist to write (the above poem). Dark sensual and tantalizing with huge luminous eyes and pouting lips, these nudes or barely draped creatures moved with a languorous rhythm and feline grace of a cat. Their unmistakable animal magnetism rendered poster like in bold flat colours was titillating to say the least, earning Bashir Mirza just the kind of accolades he craved. Brash, impetuous and restless, this outspoken rebel of an artist was one of the earliest, truly "bohemian" painters we had along with Ahmed Pervaiz and Sadequain. The "shock value" he imparted from is work was very much a part of his own persona.

The 'Lonely Girl' series was shown and gifted to the Seoul Museum when he was invited by the Seoul Olympic Committee. Once again he was in the news. His exhibition DAWN OF DEMOCRACY was inaugrated by Begum Nusrat Bhutto and sporadic highs and lows followed in his chequered career. In '94 BM departed for Australia as Pakistan's cultural attache. By then he was sick, his only late and brief marriage had foundered and the decline had set in. On his return there were subsequent lukewarm exhibitions, the latest being at Chawkandi in Aug '99. The irrepressible B.M. continued to paint, to party, mingle and openings in spite of the slur in his speech and the tremor in his hands and the bottle in his pocket.

He wanted to be rich, famous and powerful and keep open house for his friends. He may not have had power but he did become famous as B.M. and he was loved by a large number of friends and he did also enjoy spells of financial comfort at certain stages of his career.

Alas the sun has set on him who made us feel its fiery power (He painted the black sun repeatedly in his famous 'War Series' '65 and the red sun in his 'Australian Series', '90's) but it was a life well spent for he confessed that "many of my dreams did come true". (quote from the book BASHIR MIRZA: Acrylic Series. '89—'94).

Postage stamp:

On 14 August 2006, Pakistan Post issued a Rs. 40 sheetlet to posthumously honour 10 Pakistani Painters.Bashir Mirza was one of them.