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Muslim Legends

Shakir Ali (artist and art teacher)

Shakir Ali is regarded as one of Pakistan’s most illustrious abstract artists. He was born in British India in 1916 but spent the rest of his life as an art professor in Lahore, Pakistan. He is credited with introducing cubism to Pakistan and paving the ground for the growth of modernism in the country’s art. The President of Pakistan presented him with the Pride of Performance Award in 1966.

Ali began his career painting for a year at Sarda Ukil’s studio in Delhi before enrolling at the Sir J.J. School of Art in Bombay in 1938 to pursue a professional art degree. In 1946, he relocated to London to study at the famed Slade School of Fine Arts. He then went to Paris to work with André LHote, a well-known French cubist artist and instructor, before heading to Prague to study textile design. Shakir returned to Lahore after completing his degree and began teaching at the Mayo School of Art in 1954. He subsequently became the institution’s first Pakistani principal, serving from 1961 until 1973. He was very important in altering the name of the art school to Mayo School of Arts to the present name, National College of Arts in 1958.

Shakir Ali had a two-decade effect on Pakistani modernist painters, both via his work and his demeanor. Among his generation of painters, he occupied a position of prominence. In Paris, he gained direct exposure to Modern Art. After studying art at Mumbai’s J.J. School of Art, he went to London’s Slade School of Fine Art, then worked in Paris with Andre L’Hote before moving to Prague to continue his studies.

Shakir Ali started out with a cubist aesthetic, and many of his themes were inspired by old European stories such as ‘Europa and the Bull’ and ‘Leda and the Swan.’ He improved his technique by reducing the human body to sharp angles and using red as a primary hue. Birds, which he saw as a sign of personal independence in a world of traditions, appear in many of his works. In the 1960s, he pioneered Arabic calligraphy, combining the alphabetic form as a linear design with color and visual rhythm to give it a modern expression. Shakir Ali was one of the first painters to use painterly calligraphy in his work. From 2001 until 2005, he was the Principal of the National College of Art in Lahore.

Shakir Ali was of the view that an artist belongs to the entire world that cannot be confined to any national boundaries. He was born in British India in 1916 and later chose to live the majority of his life in Lahore, Pakistan as an art educator.

The museum is in Lahore. It is a fine museum with a good art collection and is a very useful learning site for art students and teachers. Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) is in charge of the museum’s exhibitions and programs and the day-to-day management. Some of his other paintings can also be seen at the Lahore Museum. Shakir Ali lived, thought, laughed, cried, painted, met his special friends. This museum is not only Shakir Ali’s house but a memorable story of an entire era of art.

Shakir Ali gave many of his own paintings and artworks to a private, non-profit trust in order to construct a museum before he died. After Shakir Ali’s death in 1975, the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) founded the Shakir Ali Museum. The PNCA chose to purchase the home of Shakir Ali, a teacher, and painter, and transform it into a museum.

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