Ismail Gulgee: An insight into life of Pakistan’s great painter Part-1

Ismail Gulgee was yet another award winning globally famous Pakistani artist. Ismail Gulgee was born in Peshawar on October 25, 1926. His father and grandfather had moved there from Attock, while his mother was from Hazara. 

Gulgee’s father studied at the Muslim College Peshawar. He was an engineer employed with the government and Gulgee traveled with him a lot. His grandfather was a Sunday painter. Gulgee first studied at Peshawar Convent School and then went to finish high
school studies in Lawrence College situated in the Himalaya Mountains in a place called Ghora Galli near the British hill station called Murree.

From the very childhood, Gulgee wanted to paint while his parents wanted him to be sent abroad and become an engineer. He became both, though, but he is known for his childhood aspirations and dreams – a renowned painter. But that was long after when he
succumbed to his family pressure and went to Aligarh University and then won the scholarship for postgraduate studies at Columbia University. There in the US, beside studying, he became his own self-taught artist in abstract painting.

His first exhibition was in 1950. His paintings are bright and full of color, but the paint is put on with greater sensitivity and paintings vibrate with intense feeling. Areas sing with luxminous thin color, thick blobs of paint pulsate with fiber-glass
tears, the brush swirls strong and free.

The total effect is very gray, yet considered and well thought out. They work enormously well, because it is all orchestrated with great care and concentration. He painted the entire Afghan Royal Family. He had his own style and he too has attempted calligraphy
and other fields. However, he was famous for his life size portraits.

His best known subjects included Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Herbert Walker Bush, the Shah of Iran, King Hussein of Jordan, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, and Pakistani leaders Zulifqar Ali Bhutto and Field Marshal Ayub Khan.

 

To be continued…

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