Pakistan’s distinguished modern master, Jamil Naqsh was born in Kairana, Uttar Pradesh in India on 1939
to a large and lively family. His father was a man of many interests, both cultural and social while his mother
was passionately fond of classical music. In spite of having a large family, Naqsh often spent time alone.
Animals were his best friends - stray dogs, cats, ducks, a pet goat and his uncle’s docile horse.
Naqsh is a man who lives for his art - it has been his priority. He seldom leaves his home and often paints for
seventeen hours at a stretch, with a sense of urgency. He is an avid reader and contemplates art and
aesthetics. At the emergence of Pakistan in 1947, Naqsh, then 8 years old accompanied his older brothers to
Pakistan while his father remained behind. They never met again after this. He faced hardship, learned to
make decisions early in life and extracted much that was positive from adversity having been raised without
parents. At the age of fourteen, Naqsh began a two-year trek home to Kairana and found out that their home
as he remembered it no longer existed. This journey which started in Chittagong ended in Lahore where he
enrolled at the Mayo School of Arts and Crafts where a new chapter of his life bagun. Here, he met the
dedicated miniaturist Ustad Muhammad Sherif whom he have been particularly drawn. Naqsh would sit for
long hours at his work and would learn from him the secrets of the classical miniature painters. A year has
passed with every waking hour at work. For Ustad, a student of such rare dedication and ability, one capable
of carrying on the teacher’s deed, was fulfillment indeed.
The year 1954 came to and end and Naqsh had to bid farewell to Lahore to move to Karachi where he
decided to settled and sought ways to survive. His fortune began when he was offered a job in the studio of a
leading advertising company. For the first time, he had a regular salary enabling him to purchase much
desired art materials and the thrill of it, from the moment of arriving home to unpacking of the materials he
bought with his first salary can never be forgotten or equalled by the recognition and honors he is getting
Through the years, countless opportunities to exhibit his
work abroad have came his way but Naqsh has very
strong convictions in this regard. He sincerely believes
that an artist must work out his personal aesthetics and
know where they are coming from; he must first be
known and understood in his own environment before
venturing further. Naqsh was offered to continue his art in America by the American cultural Attache Dr.
Schofield. He thought it over very carefully but finally declined - a decision which until today has he not
Between 1958 and 1960, Naqsh began to paint out of doors. He painted Karachi and its environs, completing
over 150 watercolor, most of which were destroyed in 1959, when monsoon floods hit Karachi. Naqsh was,
and intrinsically remains a figurative painter. The human form continues to give him the greatest aesthetic
satisfaction He believes that all responsible artists eventually return to the great nucleus of their cultural
traditions; whilst adding something new to them. He had his first solo exhibition in 1962 at Lahore Arts
Council followed by the Karachi Arts Council exhibition where he was awarded a gold medal. In 1967, an
exhibition of fifty-one of Naqsh’s paintings was held on the theme of Pigeons. For him, the subject possesses
numerous meanings. The birds represent domestic harmony drawn from memories of his childhood in
Kairana, pigeons were frequent visitors to the family home, flying in and out through the open windows,
strutting around the compound and pecking grains scattered by the girls who sifted wheat.
Thirty years later, Naqsh showed a collection of hundred paintings of pigeons rendered in watercolour, each
one unique. His genius in focusing on a single subject and recreating it in a variety of forms was indisputable.
By the mid-60s, Naqsh has evolved a distinctive personal style that influenced his contemporaries. Delicately
layered particles of paint created infinitely subtle tomes. The female form became a leitmotif; a full-figured,
classical form. Juxtaposed with pigeons it was an inspired coupling. At the latter half of the ‘60s, Naqsh
stopped working for exhibitions and in 1970, Sultan Mahmood, one of Pakistan’s advertising pioneers and an
early collector of Naqsh work opened a gallery in Karachi where Naqsh paintings were given pride of place.
Naqsh’s work has been exhibited extensively in Pakistan, India, the UK and the UAE. Between 1960 and 68
he served as Co-Editor of Seep, an Urdu literary magazine, and between 1970 and 73 as President of the
Pakistan Painters Guild. Among the artist’s many honours are medals and awards from the Pakistan Art
Council, Karachi; the Ministry of Culture, Pakistan; and the Arts Council of Pakistan. In 2003, a
retrospective of his work was held at the Mohatta Palace Museum in Karachi, a rare honour for a living
artist. Naqsh lives and works in London, and is considered the only living modern artist from Pakistan.
Excerpt from the book, Jamil Naqsh: A Retrospective published by Mohatta Palace Museum in 2003