Shakir Ali (1916 – 1975) held sway over the Pakistani modernists for two decades, both with his work and his disposition. He was among the privileged few of his generation of painters who had firsthand experience of Modern Art in Paris. After studying art at J.J. School of Art, he attended Slade School in London, then worked in Paris with Andre L’Hote before he went to Prague.
Shakir Ali began with a cubist preference and many of his themes borrowed from classical European myths like ‘Europa and the Bull’ and ‘Leda and the Swan’. As his style evolved, he pared down the human form to sharp angles and took up red as a dominant colour. Many of his paintings feature birds, which he looked upon as the symbol of personal freedom in a world of conventions. He did some pioneering work in Arabic calligraphy in the 60s, in which the alphabetic form is used as a linear design using colour and visual rhythm to lend it a modern interpretation.
Shakir Ali was amongst the first artists to practice painterly calligraphy. He was Principal of the National College of Art, Lahore from 1961-73.