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.

Select Group Exhibitions

1986 Exhibition of calligraphies at Frere Hall
1985 Anjuman-e-Sadaat-e-Amroha in Karachi, Pakistan
Exhibition of calligraphies in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia
1982 Kennedy Hall, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi Urdu Ghar, Hyderabad
Exhibition of calligraphies and drawings, State Lalit Kala Academy, Lucknow, India Exhibition of calligraphies at Ghalib Academy, New Delhi
1974 Lahore Museum; Islamabad at PNCA; Karachi Arts Council; Municipal Library Hall, Dubai; Main Hall, Hilton Hotel, Abu Dhabi; Markazul Funoon, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; National Museum of Damascus, Syria; Hall of Jordan Intercontinental, Amman, Jordan; Art Gallery of Kuwait City, Kuwait;Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad
1969 Arts Council Building, Karachi
1966 Exhibition sponsored by Automobile Club of France, Place de la Concorde, Paris
1965 Several exhibitions in France including Nouran Havre, Palais de la Mediterranean, Chateau-Musee Annecy, Musee Casino Dieppe, Casino de Charbonnieres, and Musee Macon
Arts Council Gallery, Karachi; Alhamra, Lahore
1964 Galerie Presboug, Paris
1963 Commonwealth Institute Galleries, London
N.V.C. Gallery, London
5th Salon of the "Young and Great Artists," Museum of Modern Art, Paris


1982 International Gold Mercury Award
1980 Government of Pakistan, Sitara-e-Imtiaz
1975 Government of Australia, Cultural Award
1962 President of Pakistan, President’s Medal of Honor for Pride of Performance
1961 Government of France, Biennale de Paris
1960 Government of Pakistan, Tamgha-e-Imtiaz and First Prize in the All Pakistan National Exhibition of Paintings

Commissions & Murals

1982 Designed calligraphy of Aligarh Muslim University’s logo for Moulana Azad Library
Executed a mural, “Quest for Reality,” for Banaras Hindu University
Executed five-story circular calligraphy based on “Asma-e-Husna” for Indian
Institute of Islamic Studies, New Delhi
1981 Inauguration of Galerie Sadequain in Islamabad
1978-9 Published book of poetry with illustrations, working mostly on calligraphic work
1972 Executed “Sura-e-Yasin,” 260 feet long on wooden panels for the Islamic Gallery in
Lahore Museum and donated it to the museum
1970 Published privately First Edition of the Rubaiyyat-e-Sedequain Naqqash
1968 Executed the mural “Quest for Knowledge II” for the library of the Punjab University
Executed two murals for Auditorium of Punjab Univ., “Confrontation” & “Triumph”
1967 Executed a mural “Saga of Labor” at Mangla Dam Power House
Executed a Mural “Light of the Book” in the Punjab Public Library
1966 Executed a mural in Lausanne, Switzerland entitled “Pakistan” in the Pakistan
Pavilion in the Swiss Fair - later exhibited in New York, Tokyo and Toronto, Canada
Executed a mural “Flight” in the PIA Office at Paris
1965 Executed a mural “War and Peace” at Karachi
1964 Selected to do color lithographs for a special publication of the novel by Albert
Camus, “L’ Étranger (The Stranger)” published by the Automobile Club of France.
1962 Permanent display at Galerie Mona Lisa, Paris
1959 Executed a mural “Quest for Knowledge” at the Services Club in Karachi
Executed a mural for the Committee Room at Mangla Dam on Dignity of Labor
1955 Executed two murals in Jinnah Central Hospital Karachi War #5