(1926 - 2007)
One of Pakistan’s renowned artists, Ismail Gulgee was born in Peshawar in 1926. He was a qualified engineer in the U.S.A self-taught abstract painter, Gulgee was a gifted portraitist and enjoyed regular state patronage and elite commissions throughout his career. His first exhibition was in 1950. In 1957, Afghanistan’s King Zahir Shah commissioned Gulgee to paint his portrait, and subsequently invited him to Kabul to complete another 151 portraits of members of the royal family. Gulgee received his first extended exposure to abstract expressionism in 1960 through an exhibition in Karachi of American painter Elaine Hamilton. Though Gulgee had a high public profile across the Muslim world, with works in numerous private and state collections, he exhibited infrequently at home, citing a lack of proper exhibition venues for his large-scale work. A rare solo show at Karachi’s Indus Gallery in 1988 was followed six years later by an important retrospective at the National Assembly in Islamabad. Eager to ensure his artistic legacy, in 2000, Gulgee inaugurated the Gulgee Museum near his home in Karachi. For his great contribution to the progress of art in Pakistan, he was awarded with Pride of Performance, Sitara-e-Imtiaz (twice) and Hilal-e-Imtiaz. Ismail Guljee passed away in December 2007.