The Pakistani artist Bashir Mirza is best known for his series Lonely Girls. These colourful and striking depictions of women were executed throughout the 1970s following his return from Germany, where he spent a number of years and took various inspiration.
These painstaking and vibrant paintings were the artist’s most complete works, and drew critical acclaim amongst the Pakistani art scene when first exhibited in Karachi in the early 1970s.
Whilst he is most revered for his Lonely Girls, Mirza also produced a series titled Portrait of Pakistan. First published in 1967, this was a portfolio of prints of men and women from around the country which proved to be enormously popular. The original line drawings from which the series were made were characterised by confident, angular lines and cross hatching, built up in an almost frantic way to eventually reveal the subject.
This style of drawing initially appeared in his oeuvre in the mid-1960s during a series created in response to the war against India in 1965. In Image and Identity: Painting and Sculpture in Pakistan, Naqvi describes this style as having been influenced by Sadequain’s intricately woven paintings on Ghalib’s verses. He also goes on to say that although clearly influenced by Sadequain and Shakir Ali, what was remarkable was Mirza’s ability to place his own stamp on the elements borrowed from these masters.
Mirza’s skillful mastery of this difficult technique can be observed in the delicately executed, yet strong features of the turbaned man shown here. He was able to lend his drawings a strong sense of perspective, achieved by placing the figure on a blank background so as to focus the viewers full attention on the subject, as well as by adeptly depicting areas of shadow and highlight using different densities of shading and hatching.
Along with his Lonely Girls, Mirza’s men and women of Pakistan are amongst his most recognisable works, and capture beautifully the rugged native peoples of his homeland in a technically adept and striking manner.