Google is honoring Sadequain Naqqash, the World Renowned Calligrapher & Painter from Pakistan

Born in 1923 in Amroha, British India, Syed Sadequain Ahmed Naqvi was a world-renowned Pakistani artist, best known for his skills as a calligrapher and a painter. He is considered as one of the finest painters and calligraphers Pakistan has ever produced. Sadequain was the most prolific painter of the after the independence of Pakistan in 1947. He was constantly at work and he worked on a large scale. He repeatedly stated that he was not interested in decorating drawing rooms of rich and powerful. He worked on large murals for public buildings symbolic of the collective labor of humanity, and his work was mostly donated to the public.

Sadequain Naqqash died on 10 February 1987 in Karachi at the age of 64 and is buried in Sakhi Hassan graveyard.

Many painters have emulated Sadequain openly and widely and even the copies of his art fetch large sums, an irony since Sadequain himself hardly ever sold his paintings in spite of offers from the Royals and the common public. In a recent auction in one of London’s auction houses, one of his painting was sold for $108,000. His masterpiece rendition of “Sureh-e-Rehman” has inspired many known painters of the modern era and it can even be found adorning the facades of many houses in Karachi in exacting resemblance of Sadequain’s signature script.

In an interview, he said, “People ask why I don’t paint flowers, butterflies, and landscapes? I tell them that I seek the truth and I am after reality. I am not inspired by someone posing against the backdrop of roses in a vase or pink curtains. What inspires me is a person who has gone hungry for hours and is struggling for survival. The expression that lights his face at the end of the day when he has finally found some scraps, that is what touches me. I am a painter of the expression of reality.” Self-proclaimed “Faqir,” Sadequain was outside society’s worldly greed or hypocrisy and called himself “speaker of truth.”

Calligraphy & Islamic Calligraphy

Sadequain was responsible for the renaissance of Islamic calligraphy in Pakistan. He was one of the greatest calligraphers of our time and helped transform the art of calligraphy into serious expressionist paintings. He claimed that his transformation into a calligrapher was manifested by divine inspiration. He did not follow the tradition and created his own style of script. His alphabets exude motion, mood, and paint vivid pictures of the message of the word. Sadequain claimed that many of his paintings, especially after the seventies, had been based on calligraphic forms to portray images of cities, buildings, forests, men, and women.

Before Sadeqain, just a few painters had experimented with the medium in Pakistan. Sadequain is commended for bringing calligraphy into a mainstream art form, as most of the known Pakistani artists have followed Sadequain and calligraphic art now dominates the art scene.

Murals Painting (Paintings on Walls)

Mural art is as old as human civilization. In the early ages, visual art reached its peak when artists created mural art to record traditions, events, and convictions of their times for posterity.

Sadequain painted more than 45 murals in his life, which are the best examples of public art and an important part of our cultural heritage. His murals are spread over India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Starting from the early 1950s and until 1987, when he passed away, he painted, on average, at least one mural for every year of his professional life. His first 2 murals were painted on the walls of the Jinnah Hospital in Karachi, and then he completed a third mural measuring 45 x 8 feet for the Karachi International Airport. All three of these murals are now missing and their whereabouts are unknown. His last mural was mounted on the ceiling of the Frere Hall in Karachi, which was left incomplete because of his death before the mural was finished.

Ceiling of Frere Hall, Karachi
Ceiling of Frere Hall, Karachi

Some of his work can be seen on the walls of the following buildings in Pakistan

  • The State Bank of Pakistan (100 x 12 ft)
  • The Power House at the Mangla Dam (200 x 30 ft)
  • Lahore Museum, Lahore
  • Aligarh Muslim University (70 x 12 ft)
  • Banaras Hindu University (70 x 12 ft) and
  • Geological Institute of India (70 x 25 ft)
  • Frere Hall Karachi
  • Powerhouse at Abu Dhabi
  • Punjab University Library

Awards Sadequain Naqqash Received 

  • 1960 – Government of Pakistan – “Tamgha-e-Imtiaz”
  • 1961 – Government of France – “Biennale de Paris”
  • 1962 – President of Pakistan – “President’s Medal of Honor”
  • 1975 – Government of Australia – “Cultural Award”
  • 1980 – Government of Pakistan – “Sitara-e-Imtiaz”

Stolen/Lost Paintings

In his lifetime two art galleries were established by the official authorities, one in Islamabad called Gallery Sadequain, which was located in Block F and the second one in the Frere Hall Karachi, also known as Gallery Sadequain. After he died, the Islamabad gallery was disassembled, and some two hundred paintings were unaccounted for and the Frere Hall gallery is closed for all practical purposes because of the security reasons. Forty calligraphic panels on marble slabs measuring 6 ft (1.8 m) x 5 ft each have disappeared.

At the time of his death at OMI Clinic in Karachi, his attendant was present when Sadequain took his last breath at 2:00 AM. The attendant did not inform the doctors of Sadequain’s death and instead took off for Frere Hall where Sadequain had been working on the ceiling. The attendant loaded as many paintings as he could in a Suzuki van, took them to a safe house and then returned to the hospital to inform the doctors. The stolen paintings are resurfacing for sale at a regular frequency.

It’s  a great tribute by Google to Sadequain and us to remind us of his anniversary when most generations of Pakistani’s themselves have forgotten or never know about the great Pakistani artist.