Reproduction or Fake Art?


You cannot copy a Mona Lisa and sign it and say it is your painting. If you do, it is a fake, or a reproduction – depending on how you are going to use it.

As an artist you need to know what it is. You also have to give full credit to the original artist.

Some works of art are beyond reproduction! Just look at the artworks in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.

A buyer of a work of art is ready to pay a high price for it because it is unique. A work of art is costly only because it is the only piece of its kind. It is the true depiction of the artist’s thoughts and skills. A work of art increases in value with time. – Unlike the other items that you buy today, which become almost worthless within a few months or years, as is the case with computers, mobile and smart phones etc.

Buying a work of art is an investment – only because it is unique and one of its kind. The work depicts your thoughts, your interpretation of what you see and feel. Most of all, it is a price for your ideas, and your unique view-point of the world.

9d4f7ccd86d19f956fd7614dc988dd86Yesterday, Hajra Mansoor told her art class:

“There is the world in front of you, there is the canvas and there is you. If you put the world as you see it, on to your canvas, just as it is, then it is a mere imitation or a copy of what you see. But if you put what is within yourself regarding that view on that canvas, then that is your work of art.”

Hajra went on to educate us all on the current trends in art. She mentioned the trend of ‘installations’ in art. Some of which do make sense but quite of a few of them need a lot of explanations. The painting is one of the best work of art in itself, as an expression of an artist’s thoughts and feelings.


So, a genuine piece of art is what an artist needs to make. That is what the buyer is looking for.53da963af2a4b

The current horrific trend of copying other artists’ work is getting a great deal of encouragement from buyers who are ready to invest in such paintings. You will find copies almost everywhere in Pakistan of the works of Hajra, Mansoor Rahi, Gulgee and Sadequein, to name a few.

Where does fake art come into it? If it is a fake then it has no value at all. You pay for the materials only, not the composition, thought or skill, as that is not original, the most important components of the painting are being borrowed, its’ idea, composition and selection of colors.

If you are an artist, remember that the value of art lies in being genuine. Just like as a human being you have to be who you are, not a fake person. In the same way you need to have integrity as an artist too. You have to be true to yourself and give credit to the original artist if you are making a reproduction.

Prince Karim Agha Khan’s portrait by Gulgee in Lapiz Lazuli.
Gulgee in front of his painting.
Gulgee, Ismail, Polo Player
The tent pegging horseman, made in lapiz lazuli by Gulgee.
Portrait of Quaid e Azam in oils by Gulgee.
Gulgees’ calligraphic abstract, which set a trend in paintings.

Remember one thing that a reproduction is legal – provided you give credit. Many of us have learnt from the work of masters by making reproductions. However, no one can make a name for themselves as artists by copying other artists’ work or style. You’ve got to look within your inner self to find out your ideas, and how you would like to depict them. Here is a photograph that I took in the famous Louvre, Paris, of an artist making a reproduction of this beautiful painting.

An artist at work in the Louvre, Paris. Photograph taken by author in 1984.

By the same token, you can be ‘influenced’ by an artist and paint in their style. You can still give credit to the artist. It is all right to say that, ‘I’m influenced by Hajra Mansoor or Gulgee’s work.’ However, the composition, ideas and colors of your painting, need to be your own.  Your painting must have your own flavor in it!

In November this year, the Post-Graduate College in Rawalpindi, held a special seminar on this topic. Many well-known artists, and teachers of fine arts were present at the gathering. Hajra Mansoor presided over the occasion and there was a very impressive gathering of interested students as well. The discussion was well conducted by Mussarat Nahid.

Mansoor Rahi, the living legend of art in Pakistan, standing in front of his painting.

The sad part of this situation is that many ‘artists’ don’t even realize that they are doing something criminal. This is because it has become so common to take someone else’s ideas and put them across as your own. – Which is a blatant form of cheating- which needs to be shunned by other artists, as well as the buyers of art works.

Painting of Nighat Idrees a popular artist of the late sixties and seventees.

My teacher Nighat Idrees often said, ‘jab kaam karna hai to iss mein dandi nahi marni.’ (When you are doing work, do not cheat while doing so!) She would go on to tell us to use the best paints, canvas and materials, while working, so that the buyer gets the best from you.

Nighat Idrees a great artist and a great teacher of art. She was Head of Related Arts Department in College of Home Economics, Lahore till 1979.

No wonder she was such a successful artist!

What isn’t a crime is to reproduce the work of art, only with the intent of learning the technique of the artist. When the work is completed; To not sign it as one’s own work, but to sign it and acknowledge it as a reproduction, and give the name of the original artist also in its’ title.

The current trend of copying from paintings in Pintrist is also fake art. You need to find out the name of the original artist and give credit to the original artist. Even if the person is an unknown artist today, who knows, she or he might end up as one of the greatest artists of our times?

Who know, that artist may be you? But that is only possible if you know the big difference between a fake and genuine piece of art.

Beware all artists being true to your profession is the only way you can be acknowledged as an artist.

Stay blessed dear artist and promoter of art. Remember, as in everything else, this too is all about being true to yourself and your work.

Note: Photographs of Nighat Idrees and her painting provided by the author through friends. Photograph of artist painting in Louvre, by myself. Rest of photographs of artists’ and their paintings have been taken from Google images with thanks.




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  1. thanks a lot for sharing this Ma’am
    I am an aspiring writer and a Pakistani.
    I somethings soil my hands in art too and I know how difficult it is to even initiate an art project.

    we have similar issue with the books as well.
    original books are expensive as compared to other countries, I did a little bit of research on this. how are we supposed to educate if the most crucial tools become so expensive. and the middle class is most inclined towards education, who is already overburdened by fees.

    on the other hand you can find pirate copies of each and every book on stall, book stores, even Facebook pages.

    I wonder how am I or any upcoming author is going to earn anything at all by publishing a book?? at least I don’t see it as a stable career choice given that my book will be copied and sold for pennies and I won’t be even getting those few pennies.

    1. Thank you for your detailed comment. (- Please do write your name next time.) You are so right. While I was writing this blog, I realized, that the same points are valid for all writers and musicians as well. But I decided to deal with one aspect at a time! As you may know, I’m a writer too. This is why I’ve published my books through Ferozsons, and the other one by an American publisher which is available on This ensures that your work won’t get plagiarized. Yes, this happens in Pakistan. It is time for each of us to fight this battle. To shun piracy at all levels, and to only promote genuine works in all forms. It all begins within our own selves. As far as the price is concerned, our middle class people are willing to spend a huge amount on one meal at a restaurant but never on a book! So, a lot is about priorities. We are not willing to spend on books, but are ready to spend on clothes, food and lavish weddings. We, as a society have a lot of growing up to do. Let us all join hands towards being a better Pakistani. Yes, as far as earning through writing is concerned it is a long hard battle. This is why most writers are ‘moonlighters’, they earn their living through another source, and write on the side. This is like doing something for one’s soul. So, it is worth it, in the end. Do carry on your good work. (By the way, I’m planning on having monthly writer’s meetups in Islamabad. So, please do keep an eye on Shireen’s Studio, my Facebook page. The date and time will be announced shortly. Stay blessed and keep writing!

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