Born 1930, Amroha, India
Died 1987, Karachi, Pakistan
B.A. in Art History and Geography, Agra University (1948)
Syed Sadequain Ahmed Naqvi was one of the first Pakistani artists to gain international recognition, embarking on his notable career with an award from the Biennale de Paris in 1961. The artist was born in Amroha, India, descending from a family of Qur’an scribes and is recognized as the foremost calligrapher and painter of Pakistan, responsible for the renaissance of Islamic calligraphy in the country since the late 1960s and bringing the art form into the mainstream. In the late 1940s, Sadequain joined the Progressive Writers and Artists Movement and through his career, produced works of thematic content reflected by his commitment to social justice, and the progressive ideals of his peers of writers and poets. On the eve of Partition, Sadequain painted anti-British, nationalistic slogans in Dehli and such politically charged works gained the artist a wider, responsive audience both abroad and in Pakistan among the 1960s intelligentsia.
Sadequain's unique visual vocabulary stemmed from the complex merging of Eastern (calligraphy) and Western (figurative) traditions in art, alongside Hindu and Muslim ideology. Sweeps of a calligraphic brush are echoed in the artist's flamboyant approach to painting figures but his forms and themes are mostly biographical. Contortions to figurative style arose from his observation of wild, defiant cacti growing against the odds in the deserts of Gadani (Karachi) which left an indelible impression on the artist and his work. Colors used are simplistic, yet provide strong structural elements through Sadequain's contrast of etched strokes.
In terms of Sadequain's work in calligraphy, outside of Quranic verses, the artist's affinity to literature resulted in works illustrating the classical poetry of Iqbal, Ghalib and Faiz. With the support of state patronage, Sadequain completed many celebrated commissions, notably the ceiling of Lahore Museum and the ambitious mural "The Treasures of Time" for the State Bank of Pakistan, depicting the evolution of mankind and tracing the history of great intellectuals. Other commissions include The Power House at the Mangla Dam, Geological Institute of India, Banaras Hindu University and Aligarh Muslim University. In 2003, a retrospective entitled "The Holy Sinner: Sadequain" was exhibited at the Mohatta Palace Museum, Karachi.
Sadequain died on February 10, 1987 in Karachi at the age of 57.