SADEQUAIN (1930-1987)
SADEQUAIN (1930-1987)

Untitled (Spring is Her Attire)

SADEQUAIN (1930-1987)
Untitled (Spring is Her Attire)
signed and dated 'SADEQUAIN April '85' (lower right)
oil and felt tip pen on fabric
47 1/2 x 35 3/8 in. (120.7 x 89.9 cm.)
Painted in 1985
Acquired directly from the artist by Abdul Hafiz Bahalim, Karachi, 1985
‌Thence by descent


Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari Specialist, Head of Department


Born to a family of calligraphers in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, in 1930, Sadequain moved to Pakistan in 1948 following the partition of the Subcontinent. In the late 1940s, he joined the Progressive Writers and Artists Movement there, and over the course of his oeuvre, developed a visual vocabulary that reflected his commitment to social justice and the broadminded ideals of his peers, both writers and artists.

Often described as a painter-poet, Sadequain’s artistic practice was complemented by his passion for poetry and ghazals. He writes, “Eastern poetry, and specifically poetry from the Indian sub-continent, may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain… The ghazal has a specific form and traditionally deals with one dominant subject: Love. And not just any kind of love, but specifically, an elusive and unattainable love. The ghazals of the subcontinent, in some cases, can also have an influence of Islamic mysticism and the subject of love in such cases can be interpreted for a higher being. The notion of love is always viewed as a quality that will complete a human being, and if attained, will elevate him to a higher order” (Artist statement, Mystic Expressions by Sadequain, Lahore, 2011, p. 23).

This interest in poetry soon permeated Sadequain’s painting practice. In the late 1960s, after he had won acclaim as an artist in Pakistan and internationally, he began looking for new forms of expression. One avenue of this exploration involved illustrating the poetry of the stalwarts of the Urdu language, namely Ghalib, Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. With his narrative figuration, he successfully distilled the complex metaphors and symbolism of the ghazals by these poets into their purest visual forms.

In 1985, the year after Faiz’s death, Sadequain embarked on a series of paintings eulogizing the poet, of which the present lot, Untitled (Spring is Your Attire), is part. As contemporaries, Sadequain and Faiz held each other in high esteem, and Faiz wrote several articles lauding Sadequain’s prowess. In turn, Sadequain’s deep understanding of the intricacies of Faiz’s writing is evident in paintings like this one, which probably illustrates the following verse of Faiz’s poetry:
Your attire is a reflection of the colors of the rainbow, your hair dispenses fragrance
Your stroll on the rooftop gives the season of Spring its name
Say something about this sight, my friends, without which
Neither the garden would have colour, nor the tavern have a name

(Translation of an excerpt from F.A. Faiz, ‘Rang pairahan ka’, Nuskha-hai Wafa, New Delhi, 2005, p. 151)

Sadequain illustrates Faiz’s poem through a particular focus on the protagonist, a female figure adorned in a dress of flowers and with long hair that flows across the composition. The lower edge of the canvas is framed by the ledge of a balcony, alluding perhaps to her ‘stroll on the rooftop’. Through the bright hues of the flowers and his sinuous brush strokes, the artist invokes the fragrant atmosphere of spring, capturing the essence of Faiz’s words.

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