Ismail Guljee



Ismail Guljee is a significant name and yet another internationally renowned Pakistani artist. He was born on 25 October 1926 in Peshawar, Pakistan and was engineer by profession. He studied engineering from Aligarh University and then went to Columbia and Harvard University.


His passion for art made him a self taught abstract and portrait painter and one of the few Pakistani painters who brought contemporary and modern art together. He was basically famous for his inspiring calligraphic work but his portraits also gained worldwide attention.


As a portraitist, he painted many significant art works like Afghan Royal family and was commissioned to paint the portraits of the Saudi Royal Family. During 1950s and 1960s, he was focusing on painting portraits which also included the famous Muslim figures.


Not anyone can learn the art of painting; it is a God gifted attribute which was found in the art work of Guljee. The beautiful blend of abstract and calligraphic work, with the use of bright colors makes his paintings full of intense feelings and sensitivity.


The well thought idea, the attention to details and the concentration were the qualities of Guljee. He actually brought together the Islamic calligraphy work with the abstract Expressionism of the Western style. He had been awarded many awards worldwide including Japan, France and Saudi Arabia. He got regular commissions for his work and was invited several times by the King of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, for completing 151 portraits of the royal family.


Guljee used virtuoso brushwork for creating the amazing calligraphic abstract work. His paintings also captured the mystical Sufi dance with the free flowing abstract work. He embellished his canvases with gold and silver leaf and later, in the late 1960s, he started sculpture and received various commissions for his work of Islamic verses.



Guljee was the most prominent name, with high profile in the Muslim countries, due to his remarkable contribution focusing Quranic Verses and Muslim figures. Being a Muslim and a Pakistani Painter, getting worldwide recognition was a hard task but he successfully gained recognition because his paintings.


When you look at his paintings, whether abstract or portrait, you will see how well it is orchestrated with care, concentration and details. He adopted his own way of calligraphy by using fiber glass tears and free strokes of brush swirls. In his calligraphic work, he used oil paints with Urdu and Arabic words. He had to face criticism which was very usual as understanding art with such deep and hidden meanings is beyond the capacity of the human mind. Guljee started his painting career as a portraitist and then moved towards abstract paintings.


Being an artist, he was a perfection version of what art should be, and he understood his skills quite well, this is why he mastered his skills of art and then amazed the world with his stunning art work.


Personally, I always love the calligraphic work of painters and this is the reason, Ismail Guljee has always inspired me because of his contribution in this area. His calligraphic work with the abstract touch always makes me astonished and bewitched.




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