Lot 45
  • 45

Abdur Rahman Chughtai

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
62,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Abdur Rahman Chughtai
  • Untitled (Woman at her toilette)
  • Signed in Urdu lower right
  • Gouache on paper


Acquired directly from the artist

Thence by descent to the current owner

Catalogue Note

Abdur Rahman Chughtai is remembered today as one of the most distinguished Pakistani artists of the 20th century.  He was a prominent member of the Swadeshi movement which was committed to depicting art with indigenous themes. He trained at the Mayo College of Art in Lahore but was also adherent of the Bengal and Santiniketan School styles of painting. Born into a family of court painters, he was particularly interested in the revival of Mughal aesthetics, as can be seen in his fine use of delicate line, particularly in the facial features of the female subject. The poetic portrayal of the lady at her toilette is serene and graceful. This work is notable for its lightness and ephemerality, the gesticulation of the limbs is both elegant yet poised, giving the character a sense of command. A signature soft and meditative palette is held together by gentle flowing lines, exuding transience in the picture. Descending from a lineage of artisans, only the finest materials were employed in his works, resulting in paintings of the highest quality.
Chughtai, led a group of artists known as the Lahore Orientalists, attempted to formulate their own version of a 'National' art style. Chughtai fused influences from diverse fields to forge a unique brand of modernism instilled with symbolic elements that had roots in the classical Islamic and Indian traditions. The reasoning behind this was that '...he held on to the view that an artist is above prejudice and that he must pay homage to a culture and tradition which is inclusive and hence universal.' (A. Naqvi, Image and Identity: Fifty years of Painting and Sculpture in Pakistan, Karachi, 1998, p. 54). According to him, only by recognising this common tradition can one develop an innate artistic identity. His intense yet lyrical paintings portrayed icons from literature and history, characters from beloved Punjabi folk tales as well as Hindu and Buddhist mythological themes.
Beyond miniature painting, Chughtai found inspiration in a variety of sources including Japanese prints, Art Nouveau graphics, and the mystical Persian love poetry of Omar Khayyam. While at the time of Independence, Chughtai was considered one of India's greatest artists, after Partition, he became known as Pakistan's national artist and today has a unique position of being celebrated all over South Asia.