Chughtai (1897-1975)

Abdul Rahman Chughtai is seen with a painting made in his unique style that combined Art Nouveau with the traditions of Mughal miniature and Islamic art. The photograph is undated.

“Chughtai was the first Muslim to use Muslim classics in a personal manner, conjuring up a fin-de-siècle voluptuous decadence to express Muslim feelings of degeneration under colonialism,” Partha Mitter writes in his book Art and Nationalism in Colonial India.

“It would be wrong,” he says, “to dismiss Chughtai’s self-perception as a Muslim in this period of nationalist revivals. During the resurgence of Islam in India, one of its greatest exponents, the poet Muhammad Iqbal, had started writing in Persian in a Pan-Islamic spirit. Chughtai, who was inspired by Pan-Islam, turned to what he considered his heritage, namely Mughal art and its precursor, Persian art.”