THE FIRST STUDENT AFTER THE DEATH OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI – MS MARCELLA BEDFORD NESOM SIRHINDI AND 1978 HAPPENINGS

THE FIRST STUDENT AFTER THE DEATH OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI,
MS MARCELLA BEDFORD NESOM SIRHINDI AND 1978 HAPPENINGS

MS MARCELLA BEDFORD NESOM SIRHINDI
MS MARCELLA BEDFORD NESOM SIRHINDI

THE BARRIERS OF CROSS CULTURAL DIVERSIFICATION

Marcella Bedfords first letter
Marcella Bedfords first letter

We take many issues very seriously, and the death of M.A. Rahman Chughtai reminded us of the immense responsibility thrusted on our shoulders. Just a few days after the death of M.A. Rahman Chughtai, we printed our first handout. In it we assured the world not only of preserving, promoting and researching the Art of M.A. Rahman Chughtai, but also providing access of the Art to students and scholars from all over the world. Ms Marcella Bedford had applied to the Pak American Association for funding for her proposed research on Textiles and was working on that. I do not know who or how, but it was suggested to her that she changes her topic for research on M.A. Rahman Chughtai and his Art. The papers came in and they are in our archives. The first letter from her was on 12th October, 1976. Then Marcella Bedford came by aeroplane to the Lahore Airport and I was there to receive her. I was not able to see her alight from the plane but she was in the lounge fine. I brought her in my car to the premises of the museum and it was nearing our 1978 show of 17th January, in which Ms Tamara Talbot Rice from the United Kingdom was our Chief Guest. We provided her accommodation for stay at the museum itself. Everything was exciting.

Marcella Bedfords Second letter
Marcella Bedfords Second letter

All details are there in the museum, for we are very exact about our records. We did everything possible to provide to her, all her desired requirements, like books, magazines, newspapers, catalogues, images and what not? And of course interviews in a free atmosphere. She carried a professional camera and we would allow her to photograph her requirements but with a small tab in plastic of CMT, that is CHUGHTAI MUSEUM TRUST. If we look at the bibliography etc attached to her thesis, we will find reoccurred the tab of CMT tab everywhere.

People change. People waver. A diligent Marcella diversified and we pointed it out to her in the best of spirits. Having had access to so many things about Chughtai, she felt that she could proclaim herself as the end of it all. We pointed out that her understanding of Chughtai was based on cross cultural barriers. Many of her assertions were outright wrong and there was nothing wrong about telling her that. But ideas were okay when a person takes credit for that, but facts could not be tinkered in any way. For example somebody had translated a paragraph absolutely wrong for her, and based on that, she was making claims, which had no reality in fact. We all learn more with time and she was jumping in some ways about her conclusions about the artist. Obviously we knew more about Chughtai than her, for not were we Chughtai’s family, we had lived with the artist all our lives and we knew the spirit and Ideology of M.A. Rahman Chughtai. She was unwilling to accept that, so without any malice, our ways drifted apart. We have great regards for her efforts but if the efforts are doing injustice to the artist himself, it was our right to point it out.

Marcella Bedfords VITA
Marcella Bedfords VITA

A banker from Asian Development Bank brought her as help one day to the museum and I told him she had no concept of her assertion. Gladly he was a reasonable man, went back and came alone the next day. No harm done. So when auction houses start quoting her to me as well as people, who never had access to me, I point it out. We wish Marcella well but it is our foremost right to present facts as well as the interpretations of them. Ms Marcella Bedford came here after a quest for a thesis on Textiles. In Rawalpindi she saw a copy of Amal e Chughtai and felt enamoured with Chughtai Art. Thanks to Marcella for that. She was our first serious student on the Art of M.A. Rahman Chughtai at PHD level. We were excited then, we are excited even today. But the white man’s burden is enormous. Knowledge teaches you humility to know more, not arrogance in an way. We taught Marcella things about Chughtai Art, in no way, she ever taught us! These are points to remember. We wish her best of luck in life! There is no malice within us. A scholarly role is to present all versions, at least two opposing ones, for fairness in judgement. At times the dear lady looked so bewildered that she even presented an artist in her thesis WHO CLAIMED THAT CHUGHTAI WAS NEVER THE ARTIST AND HE WAS THE ACTUAL PAINTER WHO DID WORKS FOR THE ARTIST WHO LATER USED TO SIGN THE WORKS IN HIS OWN NAME. We could have died laughing at the idea or we would have lynched that man to a tree for ridiculous statements, but she took even that man seriously, knowing even by statistics it was an impossible statement. Yes we have so much more of her in our records. We will tell more. But one thing is sure. We welcomed her then, we welcome her now. We have nothing against her. We request her to analyze her statements so that nothing is left on record which will prove to be a childish assessment for the future. God be with her all the time!

ART EXPLORATIONS OF CHUGHTAI ART SERIES FIVE; ETCHINGS AND AQUATINTS AND ENGRAVED PLATES; WESTERN MEDIA UNDER PERFECTION EASTERN HANDS.

ART EXPLORATIONS OF CHUGHTAI ART SERIES FIVE;
ETCHINGS AND AQUATINTS AND ENGRAVED PLATES;
WESTERN MEDIA UNDER PERFECTION EASTERN HANDS.

It was preferable to jump to coloured things, but the engraved scene was important enough to take our hands on it. The complete tale is on our blog and entitled EAST MET WEST and it can not only be read there, but also downloaded by anyone interested in same. Sir Frank Short said the final word in 1936. You are learning a Western technique, do not lose your Eastern touch anytime. Paul Drury said other things. Your head is a bank of faces, from where you can draw a face at will by drawing a cheque on it. Western artists loved him even in the 1920s and 1930s. Our modern artists vomit an indigestible Chughtai. For them this mixture of East and West is dangerous for their existence. Chughtai erased this opposition within his own lifetime.

Exhibition on etchings have been held many times. Main exhibition shows were in Japan, American Centre Lahore and Grosvenor Gallery London. Charles Moore is happy to consult with us at times. Thanks Charles! You are fun.

AN EXPLORATION OF CHUGHTAI ART SERIES FOUR: A RARE GENRE WHICH ABDUR RAHMAN CHUGHTAI INNOVATED, BASED ON THE GRAND TRADITIONS OF PAST MUSLIM MASTERS; MOSTLY FINISHED WITH THE TIP OF BRUSH LIKE SIYAH QALAM.

AN EXPLORATION OF CHUGHTAI ART SERIES FOUR:
A RARE GENRE WHICH ABDUR RAHMAN CHUGHTAI INNOVATED,
BASED ON THE GRAND TRADITIONS OF PAST MUSLIM MASTERS;
MOSTLY FINISHED WITH THE TIP OF BRUSH LIKE SIYAH QALAM.

An art genre which stops the breath of the on looker right in the throat, as the work of exceptional merit. These were the works created to sell at the fraction of the price of the water colours and they sold well. Scattered all over the world, few survive. In the hands of proud owners now dead, inherited by next generations.These are from the archives of Chughtai Museum. This genre on public demand had at times multiple copies. But for that the drawing paper is off white with age and that is the first thing to check. And is always in the same size. Tracings of brush outlines were kept by the artist and he made his revenue by selling these works. They come for sale all the time but rarely the actual genuine ones. The usual ones we see are the fakes the Delhi fake Masters try to duplicate but the paper, size as well as outline is all wrong. Here even slight change reveals the truth. We are coming towards the Karachi as well as Delhi fake market soon. The Indians know no shame. Stealing images from our website to even sell as prints, which originals they do not own. Making money without remorse is the Indian trade mark of the times. The exceptional honest galleries like DAG are rare. Full credit to Ashish Anand CEO DAG for keeping his gallery upright in these times. Well done Ashish Anand!

ART EXPLORATION OF CHUGHTAI ART SERIES THREE: INTRODUCING PENCIL SKETCHES OF ABDUR RAHMAN CHUGHTAI; NOT ONE PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO CAN MAKE THEM, FREE DRAWING WITH LIVING EXPRESSIONS, THE ESSENTIAL SKELETON OF ALL WATER COLOUR WORKS.

ART EXPLORATION OF CHUGHTAI ART SERIES THREE:
INTRODUCING PENCIL SKETCHES OF ABDUR RAHMAN CHUGHTAI;
NOT ONE PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO CAN MAKE THEM,
FREE DRAWING WITH LIVING EXPRESSIONS,
THE ESSENTIAL SKELETON OF ALL WATER COLOUR WORKS.

We have jumped to exploration of actual art of M.A. Rahman Chughtai. From the last 46 years I have invited people to look at Chughtai art in original. All the local writers or critics lacked the acumen to heed to my offer. The real professionals long dead and gone who knew all this about art. But we held shows every year. We showed everything in our collection to people and our visitors are well trained in recognition of Chughtai art. We even held a show on Pencil Sketches. Our motto unless you see originals, you get nowhere.

A pencil sketch is a skeleton on which the body of the work is built piece by piece. Even the fake Masters give up here.  They cannot draw these lines and use light offset machine prints on drawing paper to fill colours. Photo colours actually, not even a remote Wash method attempt. If you hold a fake in your hand, you will notice many things. We will come to that. But mostly no outline is there at all. But in the end the work either LIVES or is dead flat with no life. By the end of this series, we will silence the unknown dissent forever. See some of the pencil sketches, and observe the eyes and the lips. Living persons. Exceptional Master. Two-bit analysts do not have the skills to look at work of Masters, nor the knowledge. And malice runs through their blood.

M.A. Rahman Chughtai is an exceptional gift to Planet Earth by the Grace of Allah. Love and admire him. Calumny is a sin for a person who is not there to defend himself!

P.S.
Hafeez Sheikh comment please!

BONHAMS, DR CHRISTA PAULA AND RETURN TO COMMON SENSE – ARROGANCE RUBBED TO THE GROUND WITHOUT REAL KNOWLEDGE – ART EXPLORATION AT AUCTION HOUSES, RESEARCH CONFIRMATION.

BONHAMS, DR CHRISTA PAULA AND RETURN TO COMMON SENSE – ARROGANCE RUBBED TO THE GROUND WITHOUT REAL KNOWLEDGE – ART EXPLORATION AT AUCTION HOUSES, RESEARCH CONFIRMATION.

Bonhams 2009

The knowledge of Auction houses is meager, when their arrogance comes in. Real homage is to be paid to Western civilization, trying to get to the bottom of things. That is the objective solution. The host of Indians floating in auction houses really lack knowledge, but are too proud to even ask others. Not so true for a Bavarian German, who became an adviser to Bonhams, London. I received a letter from her requesting my cooperation in authentication. I did so, and i was acknowledged in a Bonhams catalogue itself.  Christa is still a friend, although she is no longer associated with Bonhams. She had wisdom and common sense. She saw aesthetics and not feel threatened by lack of knowledge about a subject. In 2009, she wrote to me:

“Dear Sir,
My name is Christa Paula, I am an art historian (PhD SOAS) and have only recently begun looking at the work of Abdur Rehman Chughtai. I hope this e-mail finds you well.

I have come across a particular beautiful work attributed to the artist – gorgeous line work, deep washes and luminous colours (I hope you can open the image) and have been pondering the iconography of the painting.

The seated beauty delicately holds a flower and a book (of poetry?) whilst two male figures loom in the background.
One assumes that the painting relates to a particular personage or narrative.
Can you help?

I also plan to visit Lahore in the future and very much hope to gain access to your collection and expand my meagre knowledge of this important artist.

With kind regards

Yours sincerely,”

What more can be said? Christa used her art instincts well. Her work is well and remarkable. A journey from 1976 to 2009, required Bavarian German expertise.
I have jumped the happenings of 1990s, which require more detail. Will come to that soon. Enjoy the exposition series on Auction houses!

P.S.

Thanks due to Edward Wilkinson too, for seeking my advice from Bonhams in Los Angeles in 2013.

Edward WilkinsonConsultant – Southeast Asian, Indian and Himalayan ArtBonhams

Los Angeles | San Francisco | New York

Ph: (323) 436-5430

AN ART EXPLORATION TRIP TO USA AND EUROPE 1976 – FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH AN AUCTION HOUSE SOTHEBYS.

AN ART EXPLORATION TRIP TO USA AND EUROPE 1976 – FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH AN AUCTION HOUSE SOTHEBYS.

A R C London 1976

1976 was an important year. The death of M.A. Rahman Chughtai on 17th January, 1975, required newer insights and encounters all over the world. A number of international condolences had flown in and it was my job to go and personally thank them for their concern. So, it was a very important breakthrough but it was a voyage of discovery too. My job was to check the art market of the world too. So, my first encounter was at Sothebys London, with Michael Jones. Mr. Jones was not there when we visited and we were told that he would be coming soon. Later on, we see a tall man, dressed in a brown pin stripe three-piece suit (looked Saville Row), sitting in a Rolls Royce and with a smoke in his mouth, perhaps a cigar or a cigarette on a special ebony nozzle. We talked to him about the Art of M.A. Rahman Chughtai. Not only that he had not heard of any Chughtai artist, he did not even know of any contemporary Indian artist. The only artist he talked about was some Tagore (Abindaranath Tagore or Rabindarnath Tagore), and he said Sotheby’s had sold a work of his somewhere in the 1920s for an amount like 20 UK pounds. It was astounding to hear this from me, and my cousin did not like it, but I had picked a quarrel with Mr. Jones on the art subject. We walked out in dismay, then headed for Colnaghis, which had sold an edition of Aquatints “Indian Maiden” of Chughtai in 1936. We met Michael Goedhuis there, a most hospitable gentleman. Well versed in the arts. But again, nothing about Chughtai. Our conclusion the generation that knew Chughtai was no more.

A R C and German President Bonn 1976

Our task was to bring Chughtai back into the attention of Western scholars. We sent invitations all over the world. In course of next few years, we had invited Basil Gray, Stuart Cary Welch, Tamara Talbot Rice. Ralph Pinder-Wilson, Dr Richard Ettingshausen, Paul Drury, Harry Norman Eccleston, Dr Karl Khandawalla, Herman Goetz, Dr Srivasthava, and many others to our shows. We encouraged research on Chughtai Art and the first PHD student Ms Marcella Bedford (later Nesom Sirhindi), also came here to our premises and got information and analysis about Chughtai art. We did our job exceptionally well.

1976-Basil-Gray-and-ARC-outside-London-Club

Later on, Michael Jones became a good friend and safter leaving Sotheby’s, even paid us a visit here in Lahore. He had a Masters from Cairo University, I think. He was tall, handsome and very affable. And he spoke the truth. The suit was not mine; the car was not mine, even the cigar was not mine. It was the company way of dealing with guests and all things belonged to the company. And he told us plainly, we were to discourage all enquiries about art. That was good business sense. Before his death, I had a calligraphic piece written in Persian for Michael Jones family and they must be having it to this day. I think his sisters name was Elizabeth. I carry fond memories of him. These were enriched by his partner Terence McInerney, who I met in New York later. Terry is still a friend.

Chughtai-Museum-new

In 1976 no auction house even knew the name of Chughtai art. Today there is a bombardment of same. But the two-nation theory war is not on the borders of Pakistan and India. It is also being fought in some of the auction houses of the world. A few of the Auction houses are full of Indian scholars and assistants, WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT CHUGHTAI ART. They have no access to books, publications, or Chughtai art resources. Not even seen Chughtai Art in original. And some of them are full of malice. Without doubt I am the world’s greatest authority on Chughtai art, in more ways than one. Not only have I lived with the artist Chughtai, I live in his house and I am building his museum, for future generations.  And most of all I have full access to ten thousand works of his legacy, which include water colour paintings, pencil sketches, preparatory face studies, European engravings, Japanese woodcuts, art books and a lot more. I have started this series on auction houses. This is the first, many will follow. I will show the world Chughtai Art at its fullest best. Allah is with me!

AN AMERICAN THESIS FOR UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS 1926 – ON THE RACE “CHUHRAS” OF THE PUNJAB BY STRICKLER.

AN AMERICAN THESIS FOR UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS 1926 – ON THE RACE “CHUHRAS” OF THE PUNJAB BY STRICKLER.

Race is not discussed these days and racial references are a slur on human thinking. An American in 1915 submitted a research on the race of the Chuhras of the Punjab. His name was Herbert Johnson Strickler and he did first class research on a race dominant in the Punjab. He traced its religious background, temples, beliefs, and their conversion. It is an interesting read nowadays. Sharing some of its photographs without any slur of any kind to anybody. Anyone interested in the subject can refer to us for sharing of the thesis.

WHEN SULTANA RAZIA BEGUM CAME TO LAHORE TO SEE SAID MITHA – AND PERHAPS ENDED UP BEING BURIED IN KASUR ON SOME ACCOUNTS.

WHEN SULTANA RAZIA BEGUM CAME TO LAHORE TO SEE SAID MITHA – AND PERHAPS ENDED UP BEING BURIED IN KASUR ON SOME ACCOUNTS.

The years of reign of Sultana Razia Begum are 1236-1239 AD or 634-637 AH. The Viceroy of Lahore at that time was Malik Aziz Uddin Kabir Khani. A rebellion was taking place and Hazrat Said Mitha was with his sweet and eloquence talk trying to calm things between the two-opposing forces. Sultana Razia Begum was much loved in Lahore, because she was the granddaughter of Qutubuddin Aibak, the Sultan hero of Lahore. In war of succession between Sultan Iltutmish and Sultan Iram Shah; one a son in law and the other a son of Qutbuddin Aibak. Obviously Iltutmish one. But Razia carried the valour of her grandfather.

Kabir Khani was not willing to accept Razia Begum as Sultan and was ready to rebel against her. Said Mitha calmed him, as well as Razia on the subject.There are at least three places in India which are shown to be the burial place of Razia Sultana. There is even as fourth one in the qabarastan of Kasur. And we will talk of it in some other blog.

A RAREST ART PROMOTION WAVE IN INDIA IN 1946 – LORD WAVELL AND LADY WAVELL INVOLVED IN SHOW.

A RAREST ART PROMOTION WAVE IN INDIA IN 1946 – LORD WAVELL AND LADY WAVELL INVOLVED IN SHOW.

Even in those bleak times (Riots in Amritsar), promotion of Art was still in the minds of the British government. Indian artists were involved. So were art critics. One was G. Venkatachalam (Hindu friend of M.A. Rahman Chughtai), and the other O.C. Gangoly (Hindu enemy of M.A. Rahman Chughtai). Lady Wavell and her husband both there. We indeed had a letter from Wavell’s office in our Chughtai archives. We still have one from Sir Stafford Cripps, as well as others from Viceroy’s office. There was a show in London before partition and two paintings of Chughtai were there. Perhaps the same two paintings were here too. In any case it is an interesting record. I do not think even Art historians remember this episode.

This led to the opening of a Chughtai’s room in the National Museum of Modern arts in Delhi, at Jaipur house. Later it was renamed, and about 13 paintings of Chughtai were there. Some still there, others have disappeared with time. It was the effort of Jawaharlal Nehru on the subject. Nehru remained committed to artists and writers left in Pakistan. But Chughtai the patriot in the Iqballian spirit never saw eye to eye with Nehru on this subject. Pakistan first, and last!

AN INTERNATIONAL SHOW OF SHAZIA SIKANDER IN USA – USE OF PAINTING FRUIT SELLER BY M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI

AN INTERNATIONAL SHOW OF SHAZIA SIKANDER IN USA – USE OF PAINTING FRUIT SELLER BY M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI

RISD Museum in USA hosted a show of Shazia Sikander. Unfortunately, due to pandemic Covid issues, it was not physically accessible as it was meant to be, and literally went virtual as all museums are now facing the crisis in this way. The writers wanted to use a particular painting of M.A. Rahman Chughtai in it and when we were contacted, we provided same to them. All of it came in print and we were provided the catalogue of same, courtesy of Ms Sionan Guenther. We also cooperated with the museum fully and without any charges of any kind.

Sharing this important information with all those interested in same. Thank you!

All about Art & Pakistan!