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Agha, Zubeidalocked

(b Faisalabad, 1922).
  • Marcella Nesom-Sirhandi

Pakistani painter. She introduced non-traditional pictorial imagery in Pakistan and initiated a new era in painting. She completed a degree in political science at Kinnaird College, Lahore. Her introverted disposition and concentrated study of philosophy formed the background against which her abstract ‘idea’ paintings emerged. At the Lahore School of Fine Art (1945), Agha began a study of Western art. In addition to copying Old Masters, she came into contact with contemporary Indian painting and folk art.

Mario Perlingieri, an Italian painter who had studied with Picasso, introduced Agha to abstraction in 1946. Unlike the majority of Pakistani artists in the 1950s and 1960s, who emulated Cubism (see Cubism, §I), Agha evolved a personal style synthesizing East and West. Four years in London and Paris (1950–53) brought her face to face with modern European art. Agha’s predilection for discordant shapes, tension, and mysterious and irrational juxtapositions link her art to that of Marc Chagall and Edvard Munch. An intensely private and cerebral individual, she was awarded the President’s Medal for Pride of Performance in 1965.

Together with Zainul Abedin and Shakir ‛Ali, Agha is regarded as a key figure in establishing modern art in Pakistan. In 1961 she established the Contemporary Arts Gallery in Rawalpindi to popularize the field. When she retired in 1977, she assigned her sizeable collection of paintings to the National Art Gallery, Islamabad, an assemblage that forms the nucleus of their present collection. Her reputation continues and in 2002 a retrospective of her work was held at the Shakir Ali Museum in Lahore. In 2006 she was one of 10 Pakistani painters posthumously honoured with a 40-rial postage stamp issued by the Pakistani post office.


  • Zubeida Agha (Islamabad, 1995)


  • A. A. Hamid: ‘Zubeida Agha’, Arts and the Islamic World, 2/4 (Winter 1984–5), pp. 59–64
  • S. Hashmi: ‘Beyond the Canvas’, The Star (21 Feb 1985), iv
  • Paintings from Pakistan (Islamabad, 1988)
  • A. ul-Hasan: Painting in Pakistan (Lahore, 1991)
  • M. Nesom-Sirhandi: Contemporary Painting in Pakistan (Lahore, 1992)
  • I. Ali, S. Hashmi and Q. Mirza: ‘Tributes to Zubeida Agha’, Arts and the Islamic World, 32 (1997), 64 [obituary]
  • A. Naqvi: Image and Identity: Painting and Sculpture in Pakistan 1947–1997 (Karachi, 1998)
  • P. Mittar: Indian Art, Oxford History of Art (Oxford, 2001)
  • M. Hasan: Zubeida Agha: A Pioneer of Modern Art in Pakistan (Karachi, 2004)