The Department of Fine Arts owes so much to the women of substance!
Anna Molka Ahmad founded it and since then, there have been many graceful, charming and refined women who showed a great deal of practicality and sensitized wisdom, in their work as well as in their approach towards life, without losing the flair of womanliness.
Mrs. Anwar Afzal is one such woman who with all her affection, love, hard work and rationale, nurtured the first generation of artists at the Department of Fine Arts of the University of the Punjab, Lahore.
In our beloved city Lahore, that epoch is marked by the birth of the Fine Arts Department, under the umbrella of the University of the Punjab in 1940.
Anwar Afzal is one of the primary makings of this very department as she belongs to the second batch of students admitted after 1940. In 1947, she was appointed as a teacher at the Fine Arts Department where she skilled the first ever class of art students in Pakistan along with Mrs. Anna Molka Ahmad.
The archival record of Punjab University suggests that Mrs. Afzal was a regular participant of the exhibitions arranged by the Department of Fine Arts in 1952, 1954, 1955 and in 1959 with her paintings. In 1960, Anwar Afzal had her first solo show at the Alhamra Art Gallery Lahore. In 1962, she went on to do an MA in Art Education from the University of Indiana, USA and in 1963, after coming back to Pakistan; she was given the task to establish Art Department at the Lady McLagan College Lahore. After few years, she rejoined the Fine Arts Department.
Not only, she was creative with her expression as a painter, but also at the same time; she was an academician, fully aware of the depth and relationship of art-criticism and visual arts. She wrote on some very sensitive and insightful subjects and expressed her unique ability to comprehend delicate issues related to the technique and concept of painting. In one of her Essays ‘LANDSCAPE IN MUGHAL ART’, published in the VISTA; the Research Journal of the Fine Arts Department, she discussed the dilemma of a painter in these words:
“The painter is attempting to translate a three-dimensional object on a flat surface-with a two-dimensional character. The material, that is the brush, paint, pen and ink wash, line and tone-work; all have different implications and potentialities. The pen demands that when drawing an object it should have the quality of a line as well as resemble the object to be depicted. The colour has to be harmonious as well as possess a resemblance to the colour of the object seen. Therefore, the artist has to take into account these two opposite forces and has to find a reconciling point between them.”
Here, we can listen to the resonance of the pounding thoughts of a mentor, who is trying to explain the complexity of the procedure; an artist has to face in giving the tangible shape to the intangible ideas and concepts, through various mediums of painting.
In her paintings, on the footsteps of her close friend and ally Mrs. Anna Molka Ahmad, Anwar Afzal put her hands on the various styles; ranging from painting portraits and landscapes to the modeling of sculptures. Anwar Afzal developed a very mature, subtle and sensitive technique of rendering portraits, especially of women of varied age groups displaying the diverse tonalities and textures of young and old faces, capturing smiles and expressions on the face and the beauty of worn jewels and ornaments. However, in her landscapes, she seems an observer and admirer of the surroundings and ambiance around her.
Mrs. Afzal also served as the Chairperson of the Fine Arts Department from 1973 to1975 and then from 1979 to 1981. However, the way she served this department as a teacher, and influenced many of her students and colleague with her soft nature, malleable personality and affectionate behavior, would remain unforgettable.
She was one of the pioneers of Art in Pakistan, who not only introduced the modern and western trends to this part of the globe, but also excavated the oriental and traditional heritage related to the infinite visage of the visual arts.
She breathed her last in the last week of the year 2011.