In the 1920s, Chughtai created large watercolours in a modified Bengal – school style. By the 1940s, his painting style was influenced by Mughal architecture, Islamic calligraphy, miniature painting (small detailed painting, usually a portrait, executed in watercolours on parchment) and Art Noveau (decorative style that flourished in western Europe between 1890 and 1910)
HIs diverse subject matter included heroes from Islamic history, Mughal monarchs, and episodes from Punjabi, Persian and Indo – Islamic folktales.
After the partition in 1947, he came to be known as the National Artist of Pakistan.
At an early age, Chughtai studied at Lahore’s Myo school of Art. Chughtai was printmaker having studied the art in London.
Though he was self – taught, his early style is indistinguishable from that of Bengal school. He may have been influenced by the Calcutta – trained painter, Samenendranath Gupta, a teacher and vice – principal at the Myo school of Arts during Chugtai’s years there, in the early 1920s, as a drawing master in the photolithography department.
The influence of Abdur Rehman Chughtai took theMughal art out of its narrow miniature framework and gave it the dignity of modern dimension. He effectively transplanted to canvases and to book illustration the lyricism of the Mughal and Pahari miniature. Chughtai was dificult to emulate because of his persistence in traditional subjects and highly stylized treatment.
His works are part of some of the most impressive art collections in the world. The British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the collection of Queen Elizabeth ll and Delhi’s National Museum of Modern Arts are all proud owners of Chugtais’.
His lines are strong and distinct and the work is filigreed with oriental motifs and intricacy of detail. Chughtai loved painting figures, and this went well with the audiences who were still coming to terms with the modernism that had taken birth in post Great War Europe. Chightai was not an artist unappreciated in his own time.
The Pakistani government awarded him the Hilal – e – Imtiaz.
Chughtai Museum, as it is known, is home to the largest collection of Chughtais in the world.
In 1927, Chughtai published Mraqqa, his first major work. It comprised of a series of illustrations he made for new edition of the thought – heavy and highly imaginative versus (Urdu and Persian) of Ghalib.