With the passing away of one of Pakistan’s most prominent artists, Jamil Naqsh, at a London hospital on Thursday, an entire generation of painters is no more. Naqsh, known for his art which blended impressionism with cubism and the traditional art forms of the Subcontinent, stood with Sadequain, Ahmed Pervez, and Bashir Mirza as amongst those artists who over the last five decades gave Pakistan its rootedness in art. His death takes another great painter away from us. In a country that does not respect artwork, and where painters including Naqsh have faced criticism for bringing figurative art into their work, Naqsh made an important contribution. His works are best known for the form of the pigeon and the horse which appear consistently in the images on his large canvases. There was also a sensual element to the art, with the sometimes abstract, sometimes distinct figure of the woman appearing in many of them. Naqsh was originally trained at the National College of Arts in Lahore, but dropped out to pursue his love for miniature paintings. After 1954, he began exhibiting regularly. His combination of images and patterns found in the art of the Subcontinent with the modern styles developed in Europe made him unique.
His talents brought him the Pride of Performance award in 1989 and the Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 2009. His style of painting never faded – even though in his final days Naqsh rarely appeared in public and had become something of a recluse. He was an iconic figure in the world of art and will be missed in a sphere where it is sometimes difficult to find genuine talent and adherence to using painting as a form of individual expression rather than commercialising in the hope of earning profits. Naqsh’s canvases are some of the most sought-after in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. But at heart he always remained a true artist dedicated to art in its purest form. His paintings and calligraphy housed at the museum named after him in Karachi as well as in other collections and in private homes will live on long after him, providing us a reminder of the important part art plays in our lives.