Beyond the negative headlines, Pakistan’s art landscape is original, poignant and thriving. From the recently held Aurat March (Women's march) to identity,heritage, globalisation, diaspora, issues of social injustice, inequalities, there isn't a topic that's not been touched upon. With more and more artists finding a medium to express themselves, art is gaining a valuable space in homes as well as in hearts and minds of many national and international enthusiasts.
In focus this month:
The art of” Hal” Bevan Petman from the eyes of Art researcher Romano Karim Yusuf
Henry Charles 'Hal' Bevan-Petman (1894–1980) was a British painter, who made a career in British India and Pakistan. After the Partition of India Petman chose to reside in Pakistan, till his demise on 9 May 1980 in Rawalpindi. His works included painting significant civil and military personalities, landscapes and still life and gained popularity as a “Society” painter. He is buried in the Christian Graveyard in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
He graduated from Slade School of Art in 1917. 'The Petman Girls', were the first few of his works as a young artist in 1920s London, often present in The Illustrated London News, The Sketch and Bystander. As a young graduate, his drawings were considered risque in a prudish post-Edwardian era, and could be considered as precursors to the modern 'Page 3 Girls' of The Sun Newspaper of today.
Presently, copies of these pastel drawings can be searched and viewed at the Mary Evans Picture Library
Petman was known to have built a considerable reputation in the art scene as he was commissioned by the Pakistan Army to paint and portray many General, Commanders and Battle scenes. Of such, The Ladies portraits of various socialites and influential personalities are considered romanticised renditions with almost hazily surreal backgrounds . His fame in Pakistan led to Queen Elizabeth II being presented four paintings by the Government of Pakistan in 1961. These paintings are on display at Sandringham House and are part of the Royal Collection.
Romano Karim Yusuf
Romano Karim Yusuf resides in Islamabad, Pakistan. An avid classic car enthusiast, Romano has had a career as liaison for ITV, BBC, various digital media, as well as telecoms in Pakistan. It has been Romano’s deep rooted interest in the arts that has brought to life the story of the untold “Society Painter”, Hal Bevan Petman.
Having an Italian mother, who still resides in the mountains of Verona,a brother in Australia and a (late) civil servant father,Romano has experienced many cultures and countries.My personal interactions with Romano are often ridiculously hilarious, full of satirical humour well as intense conversations of dissecting the inequalities that exist in Pakistan and the world. Modest and humble, Romano is the person you want to meet in Islamabad ,a walking talking encyclopaedia of information, ranging from topics of seasons and events in Islamabad, to current political sentiment, to arts and culture, fashion and frenzy! There is nothing that Romano cannot give you an honest opinion about. Romano has also dabbled in hospitality,thanks to his mother Bruna (lovingly known as Aunty Bruna to me) running an Italian restaurant called Romano’s. It was possibly here where Romano became a household name, having mixed with foreign diplomats and dignitaries who hold office in Islamabad, as it is the capital city of Pakistan. Since then he is the “go to” person for all things Pakistani!
It is my pleasure to start Chai Shy’s journey of Art of Pakistan through Romano’s wonderful work on Henry Charles Bevan Petman.
Watch the documentary below: