1926-2007: Art Icon Gulgee Murdered

Posted on December 19, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Art & Literature, People
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Adil Najam

Ismail Amin GulgeeToday was a bad news day. Not because there was no news, but because the news that was there was particularly bad; even by Pakistani standards.

With all the political shenanigans of late one thought that one had gotten used to bad news. But the hurt today was particularly deep. It hit exactly where it hurts the most. In the heart.

Ismail Gulgee Caligraphy paintingFirst, there was the tragedy of the ‘Karachi Express’ full of pre-Eid traffic to Lahore which left over 50 people dead. Then there was a stunning news the renowned artist Ismail Gulgee was found dead in mysterious circumstances along with his wife and their maid.

For some of us it was Eid today. But not much of an Eid. All day I have met Pakistanis stunned by these tragedies and the mix of these with Pakistan’s staple political instability left deep scars of depression on all. I should have written about these earlier today but could not, partly because I was not near a computer much of the day, but even when I was (in the last many hours) because I was – am – too stunned by the medley of tragedies and events.

I also feel bad because Gulgee was on my (now very long) list of ‘Posts To Do’ and I had been thinking of writing about him for a while. It would have no difference to him or to what happened to him had I, in fact, written about him earlier. But I do wish I were writing this under less despressing circumstances. As Munir Niazi (who I also wrote about too late) said: “hamaisha dair kar daita houN meiN.

But first, as they say, the news (from The News):

Ismail Amin GulgeeIn an incident that shocked art lovers and a legion of admirers, the country’s most celebrated artist Ismail Gulgee, along with his wife and maid, was found strangled to death at his home in Clifton on Wednesday. The bodies were three days old and the artist’s driver and other servants were missing. A case was lodged at the Boating Basin police station on the complaint of the son of the deceased, the well-known sculptor Amin Gulgee.

The Station House Officer Boat Basin Imran Zaidi said that it was between 11:30 am and 12 noon when the police were informed about the incident. The police reached the house and found the bodies of Gulgee, his wife Zareen and maid Asiya. The SHO maintained that the bodies were three days old and the smell was overpowering. The bodies were shifted to the Jinnah Post-Graduate Medical College for a post mortem and medical examination.

Amin Gulgee lived in a separate section of the same house in Clifton that had long been the focal point for art lovers in the city.

SHO Zaidi claimed that Amin had been involved in a minor domestic dispute with his parents and had not been in contact with them for some days. After the passage of three days, when his parents did not respond to his phone calls, he directed his servant to go next door and check whether his parents were home or not. When the servant was unable to establish any contact, it was decided to smash the windows of the house and break in. When they managed to enter the house, they found the bodies of the Gulgees.

Meanwhile, the watchman, a cook and a driver were not present on the premises. The driver, it emerged, had escaped with the family car. The body of Gulgee was found on the floor next to the drawing room, while Zareen Gulgee’s body was lying in the kitchen. The body of the maid was found on the floor of a room next to the kitchen. A bucket of oil was found in her hand. On reaching the scene, the police called fingerprint experts who began to take imprints at the scene of the crime. The police also recorded the statement of Amin Gulgee and registered an FIR against unidentified men. Amin told the police that his family had no enmity with anyone.

Ismail GulgeeTayyab, the son of the deceased maid Asiya, said that he and his mother lived in Mehmoodabad. Some months ago, Gulgee had hired his mother as a housemaid. He said that the family then went abroad for some time and dispensed with her services. After they returned, the Gulgees contacted his mother on Friday and reappointed her. Tayyab maintained that his mother came home everyday. When she did not come home for three days, he became anxious and went to the house where she worked and asked the watchman about his mother. He said that the watchman refused to give him any details and said that he had no information. Tayyab said that he continued to visit the house and today he found that the watchman was not present. He saw the police at the premises and later discovered that his mother had been killed.

Medical Legal Officer Abdul Razzak Sheikh of the JPMC said that the post mortem of all the three bodies was conducted and samples were sent for chemical examination. MLO Sheikh said that there were marks of fingers on the necks of the deceased who were probably strangled to death. He had also found some signs of head injuries on the body of Gulgee. Asked if there was any trace of poisoning, he said the possibility could not be confirmed and samples had been sent for chemical examination. A senior investigating officer said that Ismail Gulgee owned four cars, including those with registration numbers AEJ-234, AHW-241, AMQ-1806, while one white Toyota Corolla was missing, which was believed to have been taken away by the absconding driver. The police also confirmed that several cases had previously been registered against the servants in various police stations of Clifton Town and further probe into the incident was under way.

The mystery and suspicious circumstances surrounding his death will continue to be a topic of discussion. Too little is known just yet to be able to say exactly what happened and why. Ours is not the job to speculate. One hopes that those whose job it is to do so will find and apprehend the culprits of this horrendous crime.

Gulgee Caligraphy PakistanA part of me, however, fears that people (including here on ATP) will get so engrossed in solving the ‘mystery’ of his death that they will fail to properly celebrate the wonderment that was his life. I sincerely hope that does not happen because it is was a full and vibrant life, a life worth remembering and a life worth celebrating.

Until just a few days ago Gulgee was undoubtedly the most prominent and celebrated living artist in Pakistan. He is no more with us but his body of work is no less prominent and his life as worthy of celebration as ever.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gulgee and his wife a few times, once with his son Amin Guljee when all three were guests on a talk-show I used to do long long ago (called Mehman-i-Khasoosi). He was a captivating conversationist and always brimming with interesting stories. This is evident in a detailed profile of Guljee by Humayun Gauhar. At one point in this interview, Humayun Gauhar asks Gulgee why he could not get a scholarship in Art. Gulgee responds: “Art mein koi miltey hai? Shukar karo maar naheen daitay.” [Does one ever get a scholarship in art? Thank God one is not killed.] Poignant words, given his death!

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The profile is really worth reading in the full (see image gallery here). Here are some excerpts from this profile… many in Gulgee’s own words:

Ismail GulgeeLike the Sufi mystic poet Rahman Baba of the Khalil-Mohmand tribe, the great warrior poet Khushal Khan Khattak, chief of the Khattak tribe and the famous contemporary Urdu poet Ahmad Faraz, Gulgee is a Pathan. Ismail Gulgee was born in Peshawar on October 25, 1926. His father and grandfather had moved there from Attock, while his mother was from Hazara… Gulgee’s father studied at the Muslim College Peshawar. He was an engineer employed with the government and Gulgee traveled with him a lot. His grandfather was a Sunday painter. Gulgee first studied at Peshawar Convent School and then went to finish high school studies in Lawrence College situated in the Himalaya Mountains in a place called Ghora Galli near the British hill station called Murree.

“I wanted to be a painter and my parents were planning to send me to Paris to study art. Like all children I used to draw. I was a painter right from the day I was born. It is said that I was painting even in my mother’s womb. Like a person who is madly in love with a woman and could do anything for her, I was madly in love with painting. But things got bad and my parents could not afford to send me anywhere.” Gulgee’s father suggested that he take up such subjects for studies that would give him a chance to win a scholarship. “So I opted for mathematics and engineering and won the scholarship.” Gulgee earned a scholarship for Aligarh University and then won the scholarship for postgraduate studies at Columbia University. He studied engineering and later taught at Colombia. When asked whether he had ever taught painting, he said, “No. You can either paint or teach…” Gulgee continues: “I was teaching mathematics to graduate students of engineering at the Aligarh University when I was 20 years old. All my students were older than me without exception. I would go in my slippers and talk to them. We were good friends and they liked me. We remained friends afterwards” …

Gulgee Caligraphy Pakistan“I was looking to do a PhD from Harvard but the government took me off to look at the design of Warsak Dam” — for which Gulgee worked with a company in Sweden. “I participated in the actual design of the dam and spent a year-and-a-half with HG Acres and Company, which was assigned the designing work of Warsak.” In the early Fifties Gulgee held his first exhibition in Stockholm where his paintings were sold before the exhibition opened. Back in Pakistan Gulgee joined government service but wanted to resign after only a few months. Prince Karim Aga Khan’s grandfather, Sultan Mahomed Shah, persuaded him to keep the job. “He said to me, ‘What your country needs at the moment is engineers and there are not that many people with the kind of background that you have. Why don’t you work for five years and then you can still do your paintings?’” …

But not all his work hours were spent in mechanical calculations. He was often officially asked to do portraits. The last five years at work “I was mostly painting…doing portraits. Kabhee kisi ko khush karna hae [having to please a person at times]. And I was very happy. Mazedar zamana tha [Those were enjoyable times]. Engineering to karnee par rahee thee [I had to do engineering, of course]. I also had the chance to do what I liked doing.” It is like the wazeefa in the Mughal period.

Gulgee continues, “Then the government sent me to Afghanistan to do a portrait of King Zahir Shah. They desperately wanted to make good relations with Afghanistan. I was asked to do a very flattering portrait of the King that would please him. I told them that I would try to make a flattering portrait but when I do a portrait I have no control over it. I react to the person. So if you want to make sure it is a flattering portrait you have to go to some other painter who only makes flattering portraits. Luckily, Zahir Shah was also an artist. He used to paint. He invited me to Kabul and I stayed there for three years. I made portraits of the King, his granddaughter, Wali Khan, his uncle and of Sir Mahmood Khan Ghazi” …

Gulgee's portrait of JinnahAfter continuing for 10 years he left the job to pursue art. At that, he says, his parents felt that, “bechare kee kismet kharab hae [Poor thing, he is ill-fated]” …

Gulgee has done portraits of King Khalid, King Faisal, King Fahd, Ayub Khan and Bhutto. “Ayub Khan was a very charming and affectionate person. Bhutto was a good friend of mine. He once wanted his portrait done wearing the Mao cap. He was very impulsive but very brilliant. Bhutto in every kind of relationship wanted to establish the fact that he was superior. Of course, he was superior in lots of ways but not in everything and even that little thing would trouble him. Basically he was a nice person.” He has also done a portrait of Benazir. “She has a father who is very famous. That makes it difficult” …

Gulgee remembers the time when he had a disagreement with Bhutto. “The first time he was annoyed with me…a photograph was published in Time magazine [showing] Bhutto standing before the Quaid’s mausoleum making a fist. Bhutto asked me to make a painting of it. But for me to paint that was very awkward. I was not going to base my painting on some photograph, so I didn’t make it. A long long time after that [Gulgee met Bhutto]. I didn’t want to meet him but had to. You know, Bhutto to chorhta naheen tha…[never let go],” says Gulgee. “At least Bhutto respected me because he knew how far he could go. He called me when he came into power and we talked. He was annoyed and said, ‘you know what I could have done for you’. He was a bit annoyed because Yahya Khan gave me the Pride of Performance. Before that he was annoyed with me keh mein khatir karta tha Ayub Khan se [because I used to be hospitable to Ayub Khan]. [When Ayub Khan was out of power,] I said, ‘Bhutto saab, he [Ayub Khan] treated me kindly so I have a loyalty to him’. In fact, when he resigned and came by train, Rafi Munir I and were the only two people who met him at the station. But I cried when he was hanged” …

He was asked by General Zia to do a portrait of Bush senior. He did a mosaic in lapis lazuli, which was presented to Bush by General Zia and Gulgee in Washington. When Bush told Gulgee that he liked the portrait, Gulgee replied that the portrait was done using photographs and he could not find a good photograph of him and it would have been better if he had done it in person. Bush didn’t like the reply, says Gulgee. “And there was a complete blackout of news about the work. The kind of thing they wanted was, ‘Sir I can’t imagine how lucky I am that I am standing next to the President of the United States. They like that you have a worshipping attitude.’” But Gulgee says that he enjoyed himself and danced freely at the parties thrown there while other people stood in reverence of the President. About General Zia he says that, “He was very nice as far as I was concerned”…

Gulgee's Portrait of Aga KhanEarlier Gulgee was more interested in portraits. Doing portraits becomes easier if you like the person, he says. These days he “doesn’t do that many sketches.” On switching from portraits to calligraphy, he says that he uses the same colours. “I paint the whole day, from 11 am till around 8 pm. My brush moves like a quill. My earlier calligraphy was classical. In calligraphy you have to go back to your roots. I can write in any of the styles of the old masters. But I have given it a new direction. In Islam soch mein to agae gae [we progressed in thought].” But not in calligraphy, he says. Whatever our painters did it was still spiritually classical calligraphy. “It is not something that goes in another direction.”

He believes that there is a great deal of artistic talent in Pakistan. “People think that an artist should be natakee [performer]. They like that kind of thing. People are more impressed with their personality, their image. Many artists are like that and tend to do nothing. There should be genuine involvement in the work.” He himself, he said, was a “seedha saadha” [simple and straight] person.

Gulgee's Portrait of Aga KhanAbstract expressionism was the rage in America when Gulgee went to study there. He visited galleries and “anyone could do that”, was his impression of the abstract expressionism. “They were not all great painters. The desperate need of the people for heroes in art made them into painters of substance, whether there was any depth or not. Talent was there. But they can make their little talent go a long way in making it a big happening.” He wasn’t that fascinated by it but “liked the free and easy way of working.” In his own work, he says that not only the hand moves with freedom, but there is content too.

“Art critic Eric Gibson came to my exhibition in Washington [in 1993]. He came only because it was in a museum. He said, ‘Mr Gulgee you don’t need to come with me, I like to see the paintings on my own. Matlab dafaa ho jayo teri zaroorat naheen hae [Meaning, get lost, you are not needed]. I said, I would like to ask you one favour: spend a little time with at least one of my paintings. He came running back and said, ‘Gulgee what have you done. Our artists have been doing the same work. But you have got something in your work which they don’t get.’ Then I took him along and said in these works you need a connection beyond…call it nature, God…us ke bagher naheen hota.” Gibson wrote in The Washington Post: “Mr Gulgee began as a portraitist, moving into his colour abstractions only in the past 20 years. These paintings are by far his most interesting. In them, the artist is attempting to fuse two traditions: Islamic calligraphy, in which writing both carries a religious text and decorates a page, and the Western style of Abstract Expressionism, with its movemented brushstrokes. These paintings combine the two traditions with grace and elegance, and at the same time manage to transcend them. The paintings stand as more than the sum of their sources.”

Quranic words “mein jadoo hota hae [have magic]”, he says. The way the words move along dovetailing each other, “us mein maza aata hei [gives a great sense of pleasure]. Mine is a new direction in calligraphy.” The previous work was not spiritually different from what had gone before, he says. “You have to merge yourself in the husn [beauty] of that writing and in that kefiyat [state] you write” …

Ismail Gulgee of Pakistan“My biggest wish was that in my country, a time would come when people start having respect for artists. That hasn’t happened. Artists are so vulnerable. Their profession is so difficult. Zindagi, rozi kamane ke liye kitna mushkil hae [Life, it’s tough to earn a living]. How much they sacrifice to be an artist. Except for respect, there is nothing else they can get.”

Those final words are something that, maybe, we all should think about as we think about Ismail Gulgee, the man, the artist, the phenomenon. May his soul rest in peace.

49 Comments on “1926-2007: Art Icon Gulgee Murdered”

  1. December 20th, 2007 12:03 am

    Excellent aricle. great research and extensive and completely portrays the greatness of Gulgee.

    I wish our countrymen respect our great people, then just killing them and then showering respect afterwards!!!!

    I feel like crying that we kill people like Hakim Saeed and Gulgee and then we fail to punish those people who killed them.

    I hope that doesnot happen again ever, sadly I dont trust the system………Its an insult to the nation!!!!!! Please stop this senseless killing nowwwwwwwww. If this country has to survive on its own strength!!

  2. RE says:
    December 20th, 2007 12:12 am

    This is indeed very sad news and I hope Government catch the people who did this act. May Allah give them space in Janat.

  3. Eidee Man says:
    December 20th, 2007 12:36 am

    Good article; I think I read parts of it at another website earlier today. Needless to say, Gulgee is a national treasure. I remember when I was a kid he used to show up often at Bar-b-que tonight in Clifton, Karachi.

    I’m surprised the bit about Zia; as far as I remember, he used to criticize him for stealing some of the material for Faisal Mosque (or something to that effect).

    About the last quote from him: given the circumstances of his death, I think we need to learn basic human life before we can move on to respecting artists. What do you expect from an unlucky city whose governor and mayor are both seasoned terrorists?

  4. temporal says:
    December 20th, 2007 1:08 am


    a wonderful and heartfelt tribute…gulgee was a great artist…and his work will live and give pleasure for a long time to come

    ps: the details are sordid i have been told

  5. December 20th, 2007 3:06 am

    I am gutted but fear not for this legend will live on.

    Legends never die.

  6. Ghalib says:
    December 20th, 2007 3:58 am

    Nice article Adil!
    death of an era! he was a simple man! his painting in Faisal Mosque is simply awesome,the color patterns calligraphy and teh magic he spoke about is truly evident!if u look at that painting for 3-4 minutes ull feel ur into the painting and flowing with it!
    May Allah bless his soul in Heaven ameen!

  7. December 20th, 2007 4:56 am

    Great post, Adil. It actually persuaded me to do one myself. :P

    He was an asset to the country.

  8. shayer says:
    December 20th, 2007 5:00 am

    An irrevocable loss. May his soul rest in peace. Amen!

  9. Asim Riaz Hussain says:
    December 20th, 2007 5:02 am

    I have lost of legend. no body can returned this welth of Pakistan.

  10. D_a_n says:
    December 20th, 2007 5:04 am

    gutted….just absolutely gutted…

    as I sit at an airport waiting to fly back to the old country I get an SMS of this news….

    I feel sick to my stomach…..I dont really care now if they ever do catch the people who did this…the deed is done…and we are all the poorer for it…

    This is madness….a whole society committing sepuku and without even knowing it…

    May Allah SWT grant his soul peace in the afterlife and may HIS forgiveness and infinite Mercy embrace Guljee Saab, his Wife and their maid…
    and I hope the people who did this remain….for eternity…beyond Allah’s Infinite Mercy….

  11. December 20th, 2007 5:25 am


  12. Watan Aziz says:
    December 20th, 2007 5:31 am

    Thank you for introducing a great fusion of math, art and humility.

    I am a firm believer of math behind art. Music, paintings, architecture and crafts of all sorts have mathematical symmetry in them.

    Too bad, ignorance (about and in our faith) has held back most of us in the domain of arts. Only the true jialey (fearless) pursue the areas of arts.

    No wonder, Gulgee a giant.

  13. Jamshed Nazar says:
    December 20th, 2007 6:36 am

    The profile of Gulgee is amazing.

    I am suprised to learned that he was a highly educated and practicing engineer also. I have listened to his interviews on TV and seen a few of his paintings / caligraphy.

    Adil – Is it possible to place a link to more of Gulgee’s collections online? I checked online but did not find much in terms of his online gallery.

    A Gallery of ten paintings by Gulgee:

    A family picture:

    A book on Gulgee by Ferozesons,
    Ismaili, Mohammad. Gulgee (Lahore : Ferozsons, 2000) ISBN 9690014285

    Regarding his death, it is quite unfortunate and sad that it happened. Living in Karachi / Pakistan has its cons too.
    As usual, nothing would be located of this crime and life would go on as usual. The police are too busy in the political circus of the country. Where should one start when leadership in the country / province / city are involved in crimes themselves?

  14. K R Khan says:
    December 20th, 2007 6:45 am

    I am really very much shocked to hear this news & lost my words to say good bye to a country legend. May Allah rest his soul in peace!!!!!!

  15. Qandeel says:
    December 20th, 2007 6:51 am

    So much beauty in his art and personality. It is such a terrible, terrible loss that he is no more. It depresses me that he had to die in this way, but I’m comforted by the animated life he’s known to have led and the invaluable work he left behind.

  16. Shaji says:
    December 20th, 2007 9:34 am

    I remember once we were in Nathia Gali and Gulgee had a little cottage just along one of the roads leading towards the main market. I was with my brother and uncle and were taking a casual stroll when we passed this house that had Gulgee written on the nameplate. We went inside as the doors were open. We found later that to be customary for Gulgee to have his place open to all kinds of visitors. I don’t exactly remember meeting Gulgee there (maybe I did) but that was probably the closest I got to his persona which left a very deep impression on a little kid back then.

  17. sidhas says:
    December 20th, 2007 9:35 am

    In a country where art is derided and artists are ridculed, it is a sad news to hear of someone who broke all the barriers and earned (literally) respect gets murdered.

    My thought who will replace him and what it will take to replace him.

  18. Saadiya says:
    December 20th, 2007 10:00 am

    I am so heart broken. Such a great man and such a painful end. I had a chance to watch some of his televised interviews adn was always impressed by his humility. His towering talent and widespread acclaim never got to his head.

    I would also like to mention his wife Zareen here. She was the woman behind the great man and he always mentioned how she let him be the artist and took care of everything around him. Having such a supportive partner must have been very liberating and reassuring. Its ironic that she lost her life in the tragedy as well – remaining togather til the very end.

    I salute the man for his committment and his wife for being the wind beneath his wings. I hope Pakistan will pay him a befitting tribute and that we will keep his meomory alive in our hearts.

    May Allah grant him jannah, Ameen.

  19. RJ says:
    December 20th, 2007 10:04 am

    This is indeed a very sad news.
    My prayers and thoughts go to the Gulgee Family.
    I met Mr. Guljee several years ago on one of his many trips to Houston.
    We shared our stories of our meeting with Professor Abdul Salam.
    Pakistan has lost a great son.
    The world has lost a great talent.
    May his soul rest in Peace. Amen.

  20. Atelier says:
    December 20th, 2007 11:03 am

    A lively presence and a great national asset just disappears from our midst and that too with such psychopathic cruelty. Scary as it may seem we are experiencing such maddness and inhuman demonic behavior as not seen before.

    A befitting way to pay homage would be to leave wreaths, bouqets and light candles infront of Gulgee art gallery and the pavement.

    May they rest in peace and may the near and dear ones bear this loss with patience and fortitude.

  21. December 20th, 2007 11:06 am

    What a excellent post. May Allah make his last wish true

    My biggest wish was that in my country, a time would come when people start having respect for artists. That hasn

  22. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    December 20th, 2007 11:11 am

    Even though commonly known as Ismail Gulgee, his real name was Mohammed Ismaili as he belonged to the Ismaili sect of Islam. Before his transformation to the style of Abstract Expressionism in or around 1960, he was well established as painter of life-like Realistic Portraits. Following are some of his portraits of the national and international personalities:

    King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan and the Royal family, 1957;
    Zulfiqar Ali & Nusrat Bhutto, 1960;
    Prince Agha Karim Khan & Prince Sadruddin, 1961;
    Premier Zhou En-Kai of China, 1964;
    Shah of Iran & Queen Farah Diba, 1965
    President Ayub Khan, 1965;
    President Charles De Gaulle of France, 1968;
    President Stoica of Romania, 1968;
    President Sunay of Turkey, 1968;
    President Nixon of the USA, 1969;

    Gulgee had also painted portraits of Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Agha Khan Mohammad Sultan and President George H.W. Bush.

    He added Calligraphic Painting to his style in or around 1972. His multi-medium calligraphic painting done in Sindhi School, “Hold onto the rope of God and be united” was officially presented to the Islamic Summit Conference held in Lahore, Pakistan in 1974.

    Other than his portraits & calligraphy, he is world famous for his Action Painting. His paintings and collections are spread all over the world. He was a true ambassador of Pakistan and thankful nation bestowed him with numerous national awards, honours and recognitions including:

    President’s Medal for Pride of Performance, 1970;
    Sitara-e-Imtiaz, 1982;
    Quaid-e-Azam Award, 1988;
    Hilal-e-Imtiaz, 1995.

    His tragic and cruel death is a true loss to the nation.

  23. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    December 20th, 2007 11:27 am

    “In a country where art is derided and artists are ridculed”

    sidhas, your comments here are far removed from the reality. Artists in Pakistan are well received and respected. Please try to refrain from negativity and mud slinging for a day if you can.

  24. jk says:
    December 20th, 2007 12:33 pm

    Devastating news. Pakistan has lost someone great. He was one of the people who made Pakistan truly special. His persona, and his art were both extraordinary and amazing. Who is left? All the great Pakistanis seem to be leaving us so quickly.

    The only peace that I can get is from knowing the fact that he spent his days doing what he loved to do.

  25. Roshan says:
    December 20th, 2007 1:21 pm

    Gul Jee’s death is a great loss as the world of Art has lost one of its prominent figure.
    Gul Jee was not merely an icon but an institution which preserved calligraphy from oblivion. Its hard to see such a great person and his family being murdered in such a gory way.
    May his soul rest in peace.

  26. Abid says:
    December 20th, 2007 1:35 pm

    Words cannot express the indignation

    Words cannot capture the transgression

    Pakistan lost the last of the great artists

    In Guljee the art world lost a great artist

  27. Shaheen Sultan Dhanji says:
    December 20th, 2007 2:02 pm

    I am absolutely in grief with the loss of Guljee. Pakistan has many notable pianters, such was also Syed Ali Imam. I hope the criminal(s) shall be found and justice served. This senseless death of an art icon should be investigated thoroughly, and the rogue punished….

    (Being a photo-journalist, I have been getting news that could be quite disheartening). May Allah rest the souls of the departed.

    Adil, despite the glum mood i am in after hearing of this deep loss, I want to congratulate you, for publishing a write up’ on Ismail Guljee.

  28. ali baig says:
    December 20th, 2007 2:17 pm

    I was saddened to read about the derailment of the Karachi express where so many precious lives were lost again because of somebody`s stupidity and we overseas Pakistanis had not even recovered from this story when we were shocked to learn about the murder of renowned artist Gulgee ,his wife and maid.We had the honour of meeting and visiting this great artist on many occasion in Nathiagali years ago.Perhaps the idiot committing the murder did not know who he was killing or more likely he didn`t give a damn. I hope that the culprits are apprehended soon and given punishment as per the law of the land. I hope the governments at all levels put their acts together and honour and recognize the contributions made by this great artist.

    AL Baig

  29. Lahori says:
    December 20th, 2007 4:56 pm

    This is very sad news. Tragic that it had to end this way. May the killed all rest in peace.

    Also, one of my favorite paintings by him is the ‘nukta’ or dot. You can see it here:

    Reminds me of line: “IK NUKTAY ICH GALL MUKDI AYE”

  30. Viqar Minai says:
    December 21st, 2007 1:09 am

    I had heard of Guljee’s name as a famous artist in Pak. Other than that I knew very little about him. Evidently he was an extremely talented man.

    Any death is sad; this one is particularly tragic. Not just because a very creative life was extinguished, but also at one of those times – few and far between – when people in Pakistan have an occasion to celebrate. Even more saddening is the stark reminder of the reality that govts in Pak are incapable of providing the very basic protection to the rights and lives of its citizens. What attachment and loyalty can a society inspire in citizenry which is so indifferent to their suffering? Guljee’s, after all, was not the first to have been brutally snatched away nor, sadly, is it likely to be the last.

    May God(SWT) Rest their soulds in peace.

  31. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    December 21st, 2007 8:06 am

    Nahoosat of the maudite POLITICIANS,

    @ more than 50 killed in a blast in a Mosque
    in Chaarsadda where they had just finished
    Eid prayers, they wanted to get Sherpao,

    Perhaps we should use our politicians as a bate.

  32. Zeeshan Yusuf says:
    December 21st, 2007 8:43 am

    My heartfelt condolences to Gulgee’s son Amin & to all art lovers around the world on this colossal loss.

    Gulgee was an artist whose unique style of painting be it calligraphy or portraits, found its niche in the hearts & minds of art connoisseurs around thr world … from presidents to the ordinary man. Truly a genius.

  33. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    December 21st, 2007 9:01 am

    Viqar Minai: Gulgee (not Gul Jee) was an eminent and world class artist of Pakistan. This senseless triple murder is a purely criminal act and perpetrators should be brought to justice and punished to the fullest extent of law. This is the demand of all of us saddened by this crime. Now, how this criminal act of few individuals leads you directly into questioning “attachment and loyalty of citizenry to their country” is not comprehensible. Are you saying that other societies or the country where you live are free of crimes? Should acts of individuals be reason enough for citizens to be disloyal or less attached to their own country? I hardly think this barbaric act of individuals is an excuse or opportunity for Pakistan bashing, particularly by those who have never set a foot in that beautiful country.

  34. Meengla says:
    December 21st, 2007 10:01 am

    The Kohat blast. The Karachi Express tragedy. Gulgee murder. And today the Charsaddah blast. And tomorrow? Well, I don’t see much brightness tomorrow either.

    But this lawlessness is still being blamed on ‘politicians’! Well, hello!! Who has ruled this country directly or indirectly for most of its history? Yes, military. And under military’s rule we now have fashionable suicide-bombers gradually moving into our cities.

    Gulgee’s death leaves me traumatized just as Hakim Sayeed’s murder did. What kind of society have we become? Even scarier, are we going to really end up like Somalia or Afghanistan (beating even Iraq in violence) one day?

    PS. Who is next: Mehdi Hassan? Javed Miandad? Maulana Edhi?
    PPS. While one may start to draw parallel and say that Versaci was also murdered, in case of Pakistan the utter violence (and the ease of violence) is the proper context against which Gulgee’s death may be seen.

  35. Muhammad Abdullah says:
    December 21st, 2007 10:43 am

    Well great post first of all ….. Truly Guljee’s death is a great loss to art in Pakistan. People here dedicate their lives just to improve the condition of their fellow men like Gul Jee. Well one thing in addition to his great work was that he made respect among those who did even know what real art is.. Even people who are not interested in art know who was Gul Jee.

    In a nutshell, a great loss to art and to Pakistan as a whole. And as legends never die, so i may say his works are immortal and unfold a story of this great legend. I hope people respect artists and their works and Pakistan too respects its heroes.

  36. SJ says:
    December 21st, 2007 11:47 am

    I believe what saidya is trying to say, is that on border spectrum there is no recognition and respect for artists. If you look at our sports heroes they are more appreciated then people who became and are identity of Pakistan, for e.g. Gulgee, Nussrat, Assad Amanat Ali Khan, and many more. All our musicans gain popularity and fame outside Pakistan, and we recognize their abilities and talent after their death.

  37. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    December 21st, 2007 4:32 pm

    SJ: Athletes become more popular than artists. True. It is the nature of their respective fields. Sports heroes, film and TV stars, popular singers they all enjoy higher degree of popularity than artists, sculptors, musicians, poets etc. etc. The former group provides ready made entertainment while the latter demands serious indulgence of our faculties and hence the difference. But to say that there is no recognition and respect for artists is not true. Our artists like Abdul Rahman Chughtai, Ustad Allah Rakha, Gulgee, Sadeqain, Shakir Ali and many many more are all well respected, admired and sought after throughout Pakistan and abroad. What is needed that we introduce arts and its appreciation to our younger generation to widen its intellectual horizon. A greater acceptance and appreciation of art and artists will follow.

    And the statement that “all our musicians gain popularity and fame outside Pakistan, and we recognize their abilities and talent after their death” is not true either. Noor Jahan, Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Abida Perveen, Nusrat Fatahe Ali Khan, and the list goes on, were all popular at home first during their life time before any body heard of them abroad. Contrary to popular opinion Pakistanis in general are not anti-arts and music. Of course we too have our share of “nuts” who are ready to distort our true image abroad.

  38. Viqar Minai says:
    December 21st, 2007 8:48 pm

    Pervaiz Munir Alvi: I grew up in Pakistan; so not setting foot in there does not apply to me. And I still regularly set foot in there whenever I can.

    Secondly, the developed states definitely offer a
    much superior system for protecting the lives and property of their citizens through adequate patrols, quick response to trouble reports, enforcement of laws, and provision of justice when crimes do, in fact, occur. You certainly can’t be serious if you believe that security for the lives of citizens in Pakistan is as good as anywhere else. I’ll readily agree that in many other countries it is just as bad or worst. And my criticism (in my eyes at least) is just as applicable to all such societies.

    I fail to understand why a person would be a diehard loyalist to a state that doesn’t give a damn about his/her well being and safety?

  39. December 22nd, 2007 5:08 am

    so sad
    please get the criminals

  40. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    December 22nd, 2007 12:48 pm

    Viqar Minai: I agree with your all other points except this one. I too was born, raised and educated in Pakistan but my loyalty to Pakistan and love for my people does not depend on how good or how bad is the government of the day. Of course we all want Pakistan to be a better place and its government to be honest and responsible to the people. There is lot to be desired in that field. Healthy criticism of the government and of the society in general is good and must be done by all of us. But to say that bad governing should be a reason to be disloyal to ones own country. No sir.

  41. Adnan Farooqui says:
    December 22nd, 2007 1:18 pm

    It is too bad the way they were murdered and a true icon of Pakistan was lost. Inquires should be made and the people be brought to justice.

  42. Independent Citizen says:
    December 23rd, 2007 5:55 am

    We are so unfortunate nation that we never respected our artists and they are more vulnerable to all types of atrocities. This is really unfortunate incident and we pray for innocent souls from Allah almighty.

    In our beloved country, if a money launderer or politician having looted money are never killed. Only innocent people are the target. We dont have the respect of these icons and mostly our artists are more happy in going to India bcoz where they get respect, security all.

    Lets hope, police rather than providing security to ministers, members of assemblies and nazims, will provide security to common folk … a nice dream.

  43. Qura-Tul-Ain Safdar says:
    December 23rd, 2007 12:47 pm

    A Great Article. I am stunned and lots of questions raised in my mind….that this can happen to a person like Guljee? but why?

    Hence we cant change the society but can change ourselves and identify the same.

  44. M Yousuf says:
    December 29th, 2007 1:37 am

    29th Dec 2007

    It is surprising that the police have not made any arrest in what is a simple case of murder.

    It was reported that there was no break in, there was apparently nothing removed from the premises and what police stated as being an inside job.

    Amin Guljee who lived with his French man friend allegedly lied that he had no access from within his portion of the house . He admitted that he had a tiff with his parents.

    I believe based on the circumstantial evidence the police ought to have detained Amin Guljee for further questioning. It is sad we lack forensic asssistance to solve such hedious crimes.

  45. mahmood says:
    July 2nd, 2008 4:35 am

    from where can i have the art work of the great GUL Jee
    please help

  46. September 21st, 2008 10:56 am


    From Dawn:

    KARACHI, Sept 20: A district and sessions court on Saturday indicted two men in the murder case of the renowned artist Mohammad Ismail Gulgee, his wife and their maid in December 2007.

    Gulgee, his wife Zareen Gulgee, and their maid Asiya were found strangled in their house in the jurisdiction of the Boat Basin police station on December 19, 2007. The bodies found were at least three to four days old while the driver of the artist, Akram Ali, and another servant, Anwar, had gone missing along with a car belonging to the deceased.

    A case (FIR No 490/07) was registered under Section 302/34 of the Pakistan Penal Code on the complaint of Amin Gulgee at the Boat Basin police station.

    The district and sessions judge, South, Arjun Ram K. Talreja, has summoned all the prosecution witnesses on the next date of hearing to testify in the case. Both the accused pleaded not guilty and opted to contest the case.

    According to the prosecution, the only son of the deceased, Amin Gulgee, who lived in an adjoining portion of the house, had informed the police about the triple murder.

    He had informed the police that the gate of his parent

  47. Zahid Hussain Rajput says:
    April 10th, 2009 5:32 am

    A genious has never been appriciated in his lifetime.

  48. April 19th, 2009 11:23 pm

    Ismail Gulgee (October 25, 1926

  49. AsmA pinky says:
    June 15th, 2011 9:06 am

    Asalmoalikum ,uncle gulgee and my grand father were good friends he used to visit when gulgee sir was not so famous my grand father name was saeed rais ud din .I saw his son work on documentary of mr gulgee I think 12yrs back .talented father talented son I hope I met him but never did .I wish his son best of luck .uncle gulgee inspired me a lot.

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