The quintessential woman and dove, a theme Naqsh has honed to perfection. It is the treatment of this theme, which varies with every painting. The mood is distinct in each piece, but the woman and the dove are always in sync. She is still; he is in constant motion. He flits in front of her face, he perches on an arm or he alights on her head. The doves are nostalgic, a reminder of his childhood in Kariana. A home he left at the partition of the Sub-Continent and never returned to.
An avid artist, he enrolled at the Mayo School of art in 1953 and was introduced to the art of miniature painting. He was taught by Ustad Haji Sharif, the father of miniature painting in Pakistan. The structure of an art school could not hold him, and he abandoned Mayo to work full time with Ustad Sharif. He was driven, and he absorbed the techniques unique to Mughal miniature painting. But there were other movements that were rife at Mayo at that time, and Shakir Ali who had recently returned from Europe was teaching his students the latest cubist and abstract styles. Naqsh was not his student but Shakir Ali’s influence would be obvious in his work soon.
Naqsh using the miniature technique, moved towards abstraction. This was the movement of the day, and allowed the artist to paint from his subconscious rather than depict the realism, which had been the style of miniature painting for centuries. Jamil Naqsh’s juxtaposition was his own, the combination of Mughal technique and post war abstractionism.
His first exhibition was at the Karachi Council of Arts in 1959. The nude made its appearance in 1962 and the dove in 1964 and solo exhibitions followed for the next decade. Jamil Naqsh. In 1989 Naqsh began painting major series, which would be critical additions to his body of work. ‘Mother & Child’, ‘Modern Manuscripts’, and his ‘Horse Series’, a homage to sculptor Marino Marini ensued. The Jamil Naqsh Museum and Trust were set up in 1999. Naqsh donated one thousand paintings to the trust to preserve his work for the nation.
Naqsh’s presence on the art landscape of Pakistan was given its due when he became the subject of an extensive retrospective at the Mohatta Palace Museum in December 2003: Jamil Naqsh-A Retrospective