A R Chughtai (1899-1975)

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A R Chughtai | Biography | Life | Paintings


The last artist of the Chughtai family, Mohd. Abdul Rehman Chughtai, who lived in Lahore, was the direct descendent of Ustad Ahmed, the chief architect of Emperor Shahjahan and designer of the Jama Masjid and the Red Fort in Delhi and the Taj Mahal of Agra

He was a highly gifted painter and was very active in the years before Partition. He received his initial art training from Ustad Miran Bakhsh, and briefly at the Mayo School of Arts, Lahore. 

Later he came under the influence of the pioneers of the Renaissance movement in India i.e. Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, and Nandalal Bose. 

Chughtai was influenced by the Ukil brothers of Delhi in the technique of wash painting. (The technique was by and large not practiced in Punjab, with the exception perhaps of S N Gupta, the principal of Mayo School of Art & Craft, who during the 1920s and 1930s exercised stone influence on a few artists, including Chughtai). 
Although there is no doubt that Chughtai was much carried away by the wash technique of the Bengal School, he was, however, prompted by a great urge to infuse in his work a distinct character of the calligraphic line typical in Nlughal manuscripts and old Persian paintings
Chughtai did evolve out of the wash technique, but he developed it to give a deeper sensuous quality in his work. His style can be described as ‘decorative’ with its strong calligraphic line, which, according to him, was ‘made by a sword, not by a brush‘. 

His paintings are poetry made visible. Full of beauty and imagination, they are splendid illustrations and evoke inexpressible pleasure in the beholder. 

The use of atmosphere and light and shade marked a new step in the development of the Indian art of his time. 

He continued the Eastern tradition of impeccable draughtsmanship which reached the finest heights of simplification and had stylistic affinities with the great Chinese and Japanese masters. 

Chughtai strived to be a master of the exquisite line in brush and pencil. His work shows the vigor of design much more than that of most of the Bengal School painters

His romantic sentiment and invention are undeniable. His blending, however, is more akin to the neat and precise style of the Persian and Mughal painters

The subject matter, in some of his works, is based on Hindu mythology. Other works are confined as illustrations for the poetic works of Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal and Omar Khayyam

The synthetic result has a unique charm in its variety, originality, delicacy, strangeness, and imagination. 

Chughtai’s paintings carry overtones of the unconscious and subconscious in lyrical imagery. 

The works correspond with the romantic and fairly accurately with the state of dreaming a surrealist experience of its own kind. 

He felt the themes of his subject-matter intensely, and developed his calligraphic technique, in order to let new fantasy worlds arise from his delicate linear imagery. 

Chughtai left behind a creative output of nearly sixty years including a hoard of etchings which he initially learned in London from the famous etcher Smart in 1931.

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