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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Painters of Pakistan (Series) (Late) Haji Muhammad Sharif (1889-1978) December 24,1991

Haji Mohammad Sharif a known Ustad of miniature painting, a tradition strongly patronized by the Mughals. Born in 1889 in Patiala state, East Punjab, he inherited this art form from his forefathers who were also established miniaturists of their own times. His grandfather, Allah Ditta had considerable command over the art of miniature painting and his father Basharat Ullah was also producing good quality miniatures. Haji Sahib against the wishes of his forefathers who wanted him to become a watch-maker, opted for a court painter. The position was offered by Maharaja of Patiala who managed to convince his family.
He obtained his early art training from a known of Patiala State, Lala Shaoo Ram. He was also influenced by Mohammad Hassan Khan of Delhi and few of his father's students. From a very early stage he started showing command in his field.
In 1945, Haji Sahib got an offer to work for Mayo School of Arts now known as National College of Arts. He readily accepted the offer. He was always eager to impart knowledge unlike many of his contemporaries. He found the environment quite conducive to release and excel his creative abilities. The venue was also most appropriate to preserve ancient skills with more emphasis on ornamentation and details.
Haji Sahib was a very legendary figure. He inspired everybody who so ever had a chance to come across him. As a matter of fact he is the most remembered personality. Sitting in a traditional manner on a specially made wooden Devan against a thick round pillow, Haji Sahib would correct every ones Miniature. His students still remember witty tales of his youth which he use to tell to his students. He also use to tell about his un forgetful days spent in Patiala.
It is because of Haji Sahib's committed nature that the art of miniature painting is still continuing. He not only did countless number of paintings but also trained some of very devoted students who are continuing the traditions set by their teacher. He produced some of very fine miniatures during his life time which were presented to various dignitaries visiting Pakistan, important amongst them are Shah of Iran, Ikihito, Liu Shao-Chi and Mrs. U. Kennedy.
It was a great honour for the artist in return to his hard work and devotion.
In 1967, he was awarded President's medal for Pride of Performance for his meritorious services rendered in the field. On the occasion of his solo exhibition in Alhamra in 1960 inaugurated by Ayub Khan, the President awarded him a monthly grant of Rs. 200 for life time.
He held exhibitions one after another in Pakistan and abroad.
In 1965, Haji Sahib was retired from his services. He started losing his health particularly his eye sight. This deterioration did not allow him to continue his art. He died on December 9,1978 leaving behind the traditions of such an art form on which we can be proud of.
(Contributed by: Pakistan National Council of the Arts Ministry of Culture and Sports)
To commemorate the works of renowned painters of Pakistan, Pakistan Post Office is issuing one commemorative postage stamp of Re. 1/- denomination on December 24, 1991.