LAHORE - FAIZAN ALI WARRAICH  -  An exhibition featuring 58 letters by legendary artist Shakir Ali to commemorate his 100th birth anniversary began at Zahoorul Akhlaq Gallery in National College of Arts yesterday.

All the letters on display have been provided by NCA’s Department of Archives. This exhibition will continue till April 1.

A large number of art lovers, students and old friends of the legendary artist were present at the opening of exhibition.

Shakir Ali was one of the pillars of modern trends in painting. He was the innovator and trend setter in using modern technique to portray Pakistani themes. Shakir Ali also called as founder of Pakistani school of painting was equally one of the greatest souls who struggled to liberate and regain freedom as does a bird from the cage of restrictions.

NCA Principal Prof Dr Murtaza Jaffri told The Nation that Shakir Ali’s ideas and artworks have served as an inspiration for generations of artists and he was among the pioneers to introduce modern art to Pakistani artists. “Shakir’s biggest contribution was to localize the foreign and western art by blending it with the indigenous. He was the one to fuse the local themes and issues as well as deep rooted traditions in the contemporary art of his time. He continues to inspire upcoming artists with his remarkable work and vision,” Jaffri explained.

Among number of letters displayed, there was a letter dated December 31, 1972 to Chairman Pakistan National Council of Arts Faiz Ahmed Faiz in which he expressed his gratitude upon being nominated for the member of the PNCA. In another letter dated July 18, 1973, Cabinet Secretariat, Establishment Division of Government of Pakistan approved his foreign trips to Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, and Greece to see historical palaces, museums and different heritage sites.

Shakir Ali was refugee from India and in a letter he demanded for a 2 Kanal 2 Marla and 86 sq.ft land for a new home at the cost of around Rs 10,000. He was awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz on August 14, 1970.

Muhamamd Javed of Coopera Art Gallery said the celebration of birth anniversary of artists was a good gesture and this trend could become the moving force to disseminate the message of these artists. “These documents reflect the style of Shakir Ali and explain the system of working at the time of Shakir Ali”, he added.

He said when Mayo School of Arts renamed under the Colombian Plan as National School of Arts, Shakir Ali became Head of Fine Arts Department at NCA. “Previously he was working as Principal but he never changed and there was no let up in his passion about teaching students. I was his student and loved him in a strange way. He was an extremely quiet person and many of his gestures and signs we understood years later. These classified letters that had not been made public before tell a lot about the personality of the Shakir Ali,” painter Javed said.