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Muslim Legends

Syed Ahmed Sadequain Naqvi (calligrapher, painter, and poet)

Syed Sadequain Ahmed Naqvi commonly known as Sadequain, was a talented and brilliant calligrapher, painter, and poet from Pakistan. He was well-known for his abilities in Islamic calligraphy and art, also made a lasting influence on the world of literature. He was one of Pakistan’s greatest painters and calligraphers, and his work helped to make Pakistan recognized across the world. Sadequain received numerous recognized awards for his artwork.

He was born on June 20, 1930, in Amroha, completing his graduating from Agra University in 1948, he migrated to Pakistan where he soon planted his unique painting and calligraphy flags. Before he traveled to Delhi in 1944 and began working as a calligrapher-copyist at All India Radio.

Sadequain came to popularity after exhibiting a series of pieces at Prime Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy’s house, a liberal patron of the arts, in 1955. Sadequain won a series of large governmental orders for municipal murals shortly after, and he conducted a number of solo exhibits of his work. It was at this period that Sadequain’s paintings and drawings began to show a significant Picasso influence.

Sadequain visited Gadani, Balochistan, in 1957, an arid and desolate coastline region. He initially came upon big spikey cactus plants here, which would become a recurring topic and metaphor in his art throughout his life.

Sadequain won the Pakistan National Prize for Painting in 1960, and later that year, he travelled to Paris at the invitation of the International Association of Plastic Arts’ French Committee. The next few years would be crucial for the young artist’s aesthetic growth, and it was in Paris that he first gained international critical recognition. He was named the laureate winner of the Paris Biennial’s ‘Artist under 35’ category in September 1961 and was given a scholarship that allowed him to stay in Paris and catapulted him into the spotlight.

He traveled to Pakistan, as well as Europe and the United States, in the early 1960s, and staged solo shows at the Commonwealth Institute Galleries and New Vision Centre in London, as well as Galerie Presbourg and Galerie Lambert in Paris.

He was commissioned in 1964 to illustrate a new version of Albert Camus’ novel L’Etranger, which was published by Les Bibliopholes de L’Automobile Club de France in 1966. Sadequain was ecstatic about the opportunity, and he spent a lot of time and effort developing the images.

He painted Kalam Ghalib wonderfully in 1969, on the occasion of Ghalib’s centennial, He is Also Poet and Saying Lot of Robais. In 1970, he created a new style of visual calligraphy by painting the words of Surah Ar-Rahman in an appealing manner. His timeless paintings also adorn the roof of the Lahore Museum.

Sadequain visited India in 1981 and left art imprints in a number of Indian towns. In 1986, he began painting murals for Jinnah Hall in Karachi, but his work was never completed owing to his tragic demise. He was regarded as a good poet who excelled in reciting quatrains. The Pakistani government honored him with the Presidential Medal of Excellence. Sadequain, a well-known Pakistani painter, died on February 10, 1987, in Karachi. In Karachi, he is buried in the graveyard of Sakhi Hassan.

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