Birth: 1926 - 2007
Education: Qualified engineer in USA and self-taught artist
Biography and achievement:
Ismail Gulgee was a renowned Pakistani painter and sculptor. He began painting while training as an engineer from Columbia and Harvard Universities respectively, in USA and held his first exhibition in 1950.
He continued to paint while secretary at the Pakistan Embassy in Ottawa during the 1950s, developing a reputation for portraiture. In 1957 he was commissioned to paint the portrait of King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan, and in 1959 he held an exhibition of 151 paintings and sketches in Kabul.
He also painted portraits of Prince Karim Aga Khan (1961), Zhou Enlai (1964), Queen Farah Diba of Iran (1965) and President Ayub Khan of Pakistan (1968). He then turned to making portraits from marble mosaic and semi-precious stones, a technique that he had developed in Kabul in 1959.
His abstract paintings, produced since the 1960s, incorporate ornamental calligraphy, colored beads, small pieces of mirror, and gold and silver leaf. These works include a large abstract mural painted in 1965 for the British engineering firm Wates Ltd. of London.
In 1967 he began to make calligraphic sculptures in bronze, based on verses of the Quran, which were first exhibited in Tokyo in 1970. He made a large crescent and star in copper plate for the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad in 1986, and produced calligraphy in stone inside the mosque.