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Lot 109: SADEQUAIN (1930-1987)
South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art
September 16, 2008
New York, NY, USA
Line of Figures
signed, inscribed, titled and dated '(SADEQUAIN) "LINE of FIGURES" Painted at Karachi March '63' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
35½ x 70¼ in. (90.1 x 178.4 cm.)
Painted in 1963
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE AGA HILALY, PAKISTAN'S AMBASSADOR AND HIGH COMMISSIONER TO INDIA, SWEDEN, UNITED KINGDOM AND UNITED STATES
Sadequain was one of Pakistan's best known and most prolific painters and came from a family of calligraphers. Living primarily in Paris from 1960 to 1967 he received an award from the Biennale de Paris in 1961 though regularly visited Pakistan to exhibit his work. Line of Figures sees him utilising an idiosyncratic version of the Muslim tugra or unique calligraphic signature, intertwined with his interpretation of European avant-garde art. It has been suggested that he was most obviously influenced by Cubism and Constructivism and here as in other works of the period the artist's line derives as much from this in combination with his own traditions, as from the vitality of nature. There is a sense of flexibility and movement following a strong horizontal axis, yet in its calligraphic roots there is a readable and layered organization of form to this work. Upon closer inspection, the figures are more easily decipherable in the foreground and take on an abstracted, skeletal form. They appear to stand in front of a line of vegetation of similar hue, and spatial layers are indicated in this way.
Even when abstracted and utilized as an independent art form by Sadequain, calligraphic forms such as these evoke an essence of Islam as well as a sense of patriotism. Throughout his career the artist undertook several large scale public works most notably, the murals in the Lahore Museum. As historically documented, the interest in such art forms reached its peak in the mid-seventies when a calligraphy competition was organised in conjunction with the Islamic Summit of 1974 in Lahore, to which Sadequain contributed a painting.
His Excellency Aga Hilaly joined the elite Indian Civil Service in 1936 to begin a successful career as a diplomat. Post Independence Mr. Hilaly was posted to India in 1960 and was transferred to the United Kingdom as High Commissioner in 1963. He also served the United Nations and was the recipient of several national and international awards such as Hilal-i-Quiad-I-Azam, Grand Cross of Order of Northern Star from Sweden and Grand Cross of Order of Gurkha from Nepal.
This work was painted and presented by the artist to the Late Aga Hilaly in 1963 during which period the artist was renting a house from him in Karachi. It has remained in the family collection since acquisition.