Zahoor ul Akhlaq

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Zahoor ul Akhlaq (February 4, 1941 – January 18, 1999) was a pioneering artist from Pakistan. He is known for his approach to painting, sculpture, design and architecture, as well as his teaching at the NCA (National College of Arts) in Lahore.

Background and family life[edit]

Born in Delhi, India, he was the eldest in a family of 11 children.[1] His family moved to Lahore in after the independence of Pakistan in 1947, eventually settling in Karachi. Akhlaq attended the Sindh Madrassah as a young boy and went to study in art in Lahore at the Mayo School of Arts now (NCA). In 1971, he married Sheherezade Alam, a potter, and the couple had two daughters, Jahanara, (1974–1999), Nurjahan (b. 1979).



Akhlaq along with his elder daughter, Jahanara, was shot dead in their Lahore home on 18 January 1999.[2]

Work and influences[edit]

Akhlaq's painting invoked a dialogue between modernist abstraction and many traditional forms and practices found within South Asia (including Mughal Miniature painting, calligraphy and vernacular architecture).[citation needed] At a time when his contemporaries in South Asia were developing their work within a modernist tradition, or had primitivist leanings, he eschewed both schools by merging his interest in abstractions with traditional and vernacular practices. Although he evaded the label of an abstract artist, his work mostly fits this definition.[citation needed]

Akhlaq's influences are from a vast range of sources, which include painting, literature, philosophy, Sufism, dance, and music. His teaching and practice is considered to have had a significant impact on a generation of Contemporary Pakistani art and artists.[citation needed]

Selected shows[edit]

  • 1964 National exhibition, Lahore
  • 1962 Solo exhibition, Karachi National Exhibition, Rawalpindi
  • 1963 'Communication Through Art', Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Dhaka (Pakistan and Bangladesh)
  • Solo exhibition, Karachi
  • 1965 RCD Biennale, Tehran (Iran), 2nd prize
  • National exhibition of arts, Dhaka
  • Solo exhibition, Art Galleries, Rawalpindi
  • Joint exhibition, Ministry of Culture, Now York and Montreal
  • 1967 Museum of Modern Arts; Paris Also four exhibitions in London and Oxford, England.
  • 1969 Lahore Museum
  • Post graduate show, Royal College of Art, London
  • 1970 'Painting in Pakistan', travelling exhibition, 26 countries
  • 1974 Solo exhibition, Pakistan Arts Council, Karachi
  • 1975 'Graphics In Pakistan', Italy
  • 1976 São Paulo Biennale (Brazil)
  • 1981 Solo exhibition, Pakistan National Council of the Arts, Islamabad
  • 1982 Hershorn Museum, Washington D.C.
  • 'Thirty Five Years of Painting in Punjab', Lahore Asian Festival; Tokyo
  • 1983 Represented Pakistan in Asian Festival of Art, Dhaka
  • 1988 joint exhibition, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Religion and the Arts, Yale University (USA)
  • 1989 Solo exhibition, Yale University Solo exhibition, Galerie Mont Calm Hull, Canada
  • Solo exhibitions at Rohtas Gallery, Islamabad in 1982, 1990, 1992
  • Solo exhibitions at Chowkundi Gallery, Karachi, in 1986, 1990, 1991 and 1993
  • Solo exhibition at The Ziggurat Gallery, Karachi, in 1990.

Commissions and collections[edit]


The logo the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi was designed by him.[3] In 1981, he designed 2 of a set of 5 stamps issued to mark the Third Islamic Summit Conference at Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Both designs (40 paisas and Re 1) depicted an Afghan refugee girl.

Academic appointments[edit]

  • 1963–91 Lecturer in Art, then Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and finally full Professor of Art and Head of Department in the Faculty of Fine Arts, National College of Arts, Lahore from 1979 until his retirement
  • 1991–'92 Visiting Professor at the Department of Fine Arts, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey
  • 1994–'95 Visiting Professor, Ontario College of Art, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


The gallery at National College of Arts, Lahore is named in his memory[4] as is the gallery at the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture, Karachi.

Postage stamp[edit]

On 14 August 2006, Pakistan Post issued a Rs. 40 sheetlet to posthumously honour 10 Pakistani Painters. Besides Zahoor ul Akhlaq, the other 9 painters are: Laila Shahzada, Askari Mian Irani, Sadequain, Ali Imam, Shakir Ali, Anna Molka Ahmed, Zubeida Agha, Ahmed Pervez and Bashir Mirza.


  • Sitara-i-Imtiaz (2005). Posthumously awarded in recognition of his contribution to the arts and education.


External links[edit]