It is common knowledge that when the partition took place in 1947, there were a bunch of British folks who decided to stay back. These mainly included army officers that came as part of the division of the British Indian Army. In fact, the first three Commanders in Chief of the Pakistan Army were goray. However those in the army weren’t the only ones that spent their lives in Pakistan. An artist, who time seems to have forgotten, stayed back in what is now Pakistan and contributed his skills in one of the most unique ways.
The artist, Henry Charles “Hal” Bevan-Petman, is one of those gems in Pakistan’s history whose marvelous work has been hiding in plain site, all these years
While his name might not ring any bells, chances are that you’ve been exposed to his work since primary school. The guy has painted every notable personality form the early days of Pakistan.
According to a website memorializing Hal, “as a young portrait artist in London, he painted models who were known as the Petman girls. He had a way of transmitting glamour. His trade mark was the beautiful, long neck”.
Before the partition of India, it is said that Bevan-Pitman’s family came to the Indian subcontinent and engaged in a diverse set of businesses, including a few mines in the present-day Balochistan area. After the partition of India, teh Government of Pakistan took over the mines that his family owned. Bevan-Pitman stayed back in Pakistan and while adopting a career in painting, he also managed to get compensation from the Government, during the era of General Ayub Khan.
Some of Hal Bevan-Pitman’s most iconic paintings include this picture of Quaid-e-Azam that has been in every official building and school textbook
It was painted by none other than Hal Bevan-Petman. However this was only a spec of his contribution to the country.
His most notable work was perhaps the portraits of all the martyred army personal that were recipients of Nishan-e-Haider
We’ve all come across the portraits of these fine gentlemen, either in our school textbooks or those sticker sheets they used to sell bachpan mein. From Major Tufail, to Col. Aziz Bhatti, he painted them all. And the pictures you saw I can bet were these portraits painted by Hal Bevan-Petman.
Additionally, Hal Bevan Petman also did portraits to senior members of the government and the army
Hal did a portrait for Feild Marshall Ayub Khan back when the later took power. You could say that Hal Bevan-Petman was an unofficial portraitist of Pakistani government and Army officials.
Born on 28 October 1894 Gloucestershire, England, Hal Bevan-Petman moved permanently to British India
Four of Hal Bevan-Pitman’s paintings are now part of the British Royal Collection and are displayed in the Sandrigham House because they were gifted to the Queen Elizabeth II by the Government of Pakistan, in 1961.
Hal passed away on May 9, 1980 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan and is buried in the Christian Graveyard of ‘Pindi. He was survived by his wife.
While Hal gave his life to Pakistan, sadly, Pakistan could not give back to him by at least remembering the contributions he made to the culture of Pakistan.
Cover image via: Taqi Shaheen / Vimeo