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PaintingPakistan was created in 1947 when the Indian subcontinent was partitioned, or divided, as part of the British withdrawal of colonial rule. After independence, young artists began to look to the West rather than to India for inspiration; they turned away from the traditional art styles and looked for inspiration among their contemporaries.





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Cubism, which was popularized by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in the early 20th century and the colorful abstract work of Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky, became very popular in 1950s Pakistan.  The work of American Jackson Pollock, who was famous for his ‘action paintings’ created by pouring and dripping paint, also influenced some of the nation’s painters.

Both styles, as well as many others in the post-World War II period in America and Europe, often featured vibrant colors and were nonrepresentational (were not representing a specific form) or were “anti-figurative.” This moving away from representing the human figure meshed well with the Islamic tradition of eschewing the painting of living creatures, out of respect to Allah, who they believe to be the only creator of life.

As later 20th century Pakistani artists explored color and form in their canvases, they also wanted to explore the human form; since the 1970s, many artists have begun to create modern portraits. In the 1980s, landscape painting became popular, with village scenes and city skylines appearing in a variety of styles, including realistic and surrealistic.

Murals and billboards, particularly with strong graphic arts elements like exaggerated lettering, are part of the current painting scene in Pakistani cities, as is an increasing interest in the digital arts.