PERCY BROWN, FYZEE RAHAMEEN AND OTHERS IN DELHI
WAS M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI PRESENT AT VICEROYS HOUSE?
Mural Painting in Delhi by Percy Brown.
The idea of New Delhi was given by the King Emperor at at Durbar in Delhi in 1911. It was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Lutyens. On 6th of April, 1929, the last stone of the dome was laid by Lord Irwin and awaited a Michaelangelo to put life into it. Two engineers Sir Hugh Keeling and Sir Alexander Rouse were involved, but the mural part was given to Percy Brown, former Principal of Mayo School of Arts, Lahore.
The Viceroys House in Delhi was being made. A requirement was felt that it should be represented artistically by Regional Art, in which all religions should be represented. The man called to supervise all this was Artist and Art administrator Percy Brown. Percy Brown was Principal of Mayo School of Arts once and was in Calcutta then. Percy Brown started the project with his team of Indo-Pakistani Artists. The main persons responsible for these murals were both Percy Brown as well as Fyzee Rahameen . Besides these two, there was a team of other artists, mostly from Mayo School of Arts Lahore, as well as better known names. Even the Qajar King in Iran sent a figurative ceiling for the House.
We all know that Fyzee Rahamen, a Jew converted to Islam, due to his love for Atiya Fyzee, was responsible for these murals and it is a well known fact. But there were portions of work. Figurative painting of scenes and before that maps of India and regional areas. The map part was probably done earlier in time. A photograph is known. But in the team of artists, many faces can be recognized as being from Lahore. Fyzee Rahameen was born in 1880 and in 1929, should be 49 years old. It looks like that the man on the ladder could be Fyzee Rahameen himself for he had lack of hair on his head, even at that time. In a typical English attire, he could be our person. Master Sher Muhammed, Master Miran Baksh, Master Ferozeuddin, and others can be recognized in the picture. But who is the relatively young man standing in the scaffolding, holding a design book in his hands. If we compare it to other photographs of M.A. Rahman Chughtai of that period, it could very well be Chughtai Artist. Born in 1897, he would be in his twenties there. The slit full black hair as well as the moustaches as well as the build. Most particularly the hairy hands. In no way it could be Fyzee Rahameen for he was an older man by that time.
We have never heard that M.A. Rahman Chughtai even visited the Viceroys House. But then who knows? There are unrecorded things we really do not know. In any case it is a question of research. Perhaps it was not work, but a friendly visit to see what was going on there? In our view it looks like the artist Chughtai in all ways.
The murals no longer exists as they were washed by the Government of India after partition. But the work of mostly Lahori artists as well as the Bombay artist Fyzee Rahameen exist to this day. Fyzee Rahameen opted for Pakistan after partition and died in Karachi of old age. What the Government of Pakistan did (malignant) for his museum in Karachi is well known, but so should be known what the Government of India did to him. The artist place his works, others destroy them. Nothing else matters. Governments mistreat artists all the time. It is for us to clarify history.
Another interesting feature is the Murals inside the Indian House in London, also started by Sir Herbert Baker with cooperation of Sir William Rothenstein. Strangely William Rothenstein rejected Fyzee Rahameen for this London project and chose lesser known artists. But that is another story. It was at this India House that Feroze Khan Noon was High Commissioner of India, when M.A. Rahman Chughtai went to see him in 1932. The relation of the artist with Sir William Rothenstein and his son John Rothenstein is a separate story in itself.