M. A. R. Chughtai
M. A. R. Chughtai M. A. R. Chughtai

M. A. R. Chughtai

M. A. R. Chughtai

M. A. R. Chughtai

1897 - 1975

M. A. R. Chughtai

While M. Abdur Rahman Chughtai’s early watercolours bear the stamp of Abanindranath Tagore’s revivalist Bengal School, by the 1940s he had created his own style, a commingling of the Bengal School, Mughal art, and miniature and Islamic traditions of art.

Born into a family of artists in Lahore on 21 September 1897, Chughtai learnt to draw from his father, Mia Karim Baksh. He joined Mayo School of Art in Lahore in 1911, where Samarendranath Gupta, a pupil of Abanindranath Tagore, was vice-principal. He obtained a diploma in photo lithography from Mayo School in 1914, where he went on to become the head instructor in chromo-lithography.

Chughtai honed his printmaking skills during visits to London in the mid-1930s and exhibited his works across Europe; he also exhibited with Indian Society of Oriental Art in Calcutta around this time. Despite Pakistani claims on his heritage, his contribution towards the entire subcontinent’s art is substantial—his subjects ranged from Buddhist themes, Hindu epics, stories from Radha-Krishna mythology, as well as illustrative paintings on Ghalib’s poetry and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

As Pakistan’s national artist, his publication, Amal-i-Chughtai, and original works were gifted to visiting heads of states. He also designed postal stamps and insignia for Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television. He was awarded Pakistan’s highest honours—Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 1960, and the Presidential medal for the Pride of Performance in 1968. He passed away in Lahore on 17 January 1975.

‘Posterity will remember him as the greatest exponent of the spirit of Indian art in modern age’


artist timeline


Born on September 21 in Lahore in British India as Muhammad Abdur Rahman Chughtai, in a family of artists and craftsmen; learns to draw from his father, Mia Karim Baksh, and the art of naqqashi (repousse) from his uncle, Baba Miran Shah Naqqash.


Obtains a diploma in photo lithography from Mayo School of Art. After leaving school, works as a photographer and a drawing teacher for a while.


His first painting appears in Modern Review, done in revivalist Bengal School style. He travels to Delhi to see the Mughal monuments of the city. Travels to Calcutta and apprentices under Abanindranath Tagore for a while. His early watercolours are in the Bengal School style featuring Hindu and Buddhist deities and mythological characters; his works such as Jahanara and Taj bear influence of Abanindranath Tagore’s well-known work, The Last Moments of Shahjahan


Holds his first exhibition at Punjab Fine Art Society, Lahore.


Exhibits with the Indian School of Oriental Art.


Tours Europe holding solo shows.


Publishes his first book, Muraqqai-i-Chughtai, which is a generously illustrated edition of Mirza Ghalib’s poetry with a foreword by contemporary poet Allama Iqbal; it is considered the most significant of Chughtai’s works and one of the finest examples of book production in the country.


Is awarded the title of Khan Bahadur by the British colonial government.


Publishes his second book, Naqsh-i-Chughtai.


Travels to London to learn printmaking and etching at London School of Photo Engraving.


Develops his unique painting style, influenced by Mughal architecture, Islamic calligraphy, miniature painting and Art Nouveau; his subjects include characters from Islamic history and mythology, Mughal kings and queens, and stories from Punjabi, Persian and Indo-Islamic folk tales


Publishes his third book, Chughtai’s Paintings.


Following the partition of the subcontinent and the creation of Pakistan, comes to be known as the National Artist of Pakistan. Designs insignia for Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television; becomes the founder member of Pakistan Art Council. His publication, Amal-i-Chughtai, and original works by him are gifted to visiting heads of state by the Government of Pakistan.


Is conferred the title of ‘Hilal-i-Imtiaz’ (Crescent of Excellence) by the President of Pakistan.

Mid 1960s

Continues to paint in his distinctive style, though his subjects are now secular.


Receives Pride of Performance Award from the President of Pakistan.


Passes away on 17 January in Lahore. His family sets up his dream project, the Abdur Rahman Chughtai Museum, in Lahore. Exhibits are changed annually.


Son Arif Rahman Chughtai publishes a book on his father, The Challenge of M. A. Rahman Chughtai to the Bengal School of Art, (Lahore: Jahangir Book Club).


dag exhibitions

The ‘Manifestations’ series of 20th Century Indian Art, Editions VI, X

DAG, New Delhi, 2011-14

'The Art of Bengal'

DAG, New Delhi, 2012; Mumbai, 2014; New York 2016-17

'Home: is a Place: Interiority in Indian Art'

DAG, New Delhi, 2021

'Iconic: Masterpieces of Indian Modern Art'

DAG, Mumbai, 2022

notable collections

National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Chughtai Museum Trust, Lahore

National Art Gallery, Islamabad

President’s House, Islamabad

Governor’s House, Lahore and Karachi

President’s House, Bonn

Queen Juliana’s Palace, the Hague

The Peace Palace, the Hague

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

British Museum, London

United Nations Headquarters, New York

U. S. State Department, Washington, D. C.

Kennedy Memorial, Boston

archival media