The 65 year old painter, an Aquarian by birth, hence is a visionary and a progressive soul who loves making the world a better place. He is very humble person but a near-genius, letting his mind create some amazing artworks with inventive and original thought processes.
Hussain is mainly known for his figurative paintings and he paints his subject women from a particular area without any melodrama. In most of his works, his canvas brings to attention the daily routine in life of these women. One finds them sitting together, lying, relaxing, chatting, doing menial chores, waiting for the guests, or in deep thoughts - as if meddling with their inner self or meditating. Interestingly, many a times there are more than one woman, who are found interacting with each other giving a sense of a family or a cohesive unit.
At times his works reflect the despair of the no-exit situation, while in others, the power of their confidence supersedes all expressions. The key element of his paintings is the honesty in his work – he portrays his subjects as they are in real life and does not create extra sensuality, voluptuousness or “make up” to make them look beautiful.
Hussian’s other interest is the cityscape of walled city of Lahore. Nadeem Alam, an art historian and art critic commenting on these paintings wrote “The cityscapes of Iqbal Hussain, seem the continuity of his figurative painting as they represent the dishevelled complexity of the walled city architecture, in a manner that its walls, roofs and the heavy environment adds to the unheard silence of the noisy and busy life around. These cityscapes let the viewer wander through the intertwined streets, breathe atop a rooftop, and sneak a glimpse of the Badshahi Mosque or the River Ravi.
Lavinia Filippi, an Italian curator and art writer based in Islamabad mentioned that Iqbal Hussain has been compared with the French Impressionist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. She has written that as was the practice of that late 19th century French artist, Mr. Hussain also loves to paint en plein air by the Ravi, describing the everyday life of the river.
Some art critics, however, argues that though Hussain is a unique and an iconic painter, a graduate and ex faculty member of the National College of Arts, Lahore, he never got the kind of endorsement or acclaim he deserves by the State and its allied institutions. It has been written that his stature as an artist has never been “mainstreamed”, even though his work, like that of all great artists, is done in faith and hope.
Interestingly, Hussain had no interest in arts or painting but got admission in NCA in 1970 through the persuasion of a friend who saw him making drawings of film stars. These he used to make only to amuse his friends. Later, Hussain learnt that the intention of the friend for getting him admitted in NCA was to have easy access to his girlfriend. At that time outsiders were not allowed, hence by coming to meet Hussain, he was able to meet her. Now Hussain says that he owes his friend a lot, whatever his intention may have been, but that act has led him to become an artist.
Once in the college, Hussain’s interest in painting evolved and Khalid Iqbal played a key role in his development. According to the artist, Khalid played the role of a father in his life. He not only encouraged him to paint but also helped him financially and stood by him in all difficult times, not only in college but in personal life too. Hussain says that he thanks Allah Almighty that Iqbal Sahib saw talent in him and harnessed it.
Hussain is also a bold man with abilities to fight out all odds and always thanking Almighty. Last year he became severely ill with diagnosis of clots in the brain vessels and was hospitalized twice. His strong will played an important role in his good recovery. Once out of hospital, he began painting again with more zeal the anguish and forces that surrounds him. The new works are not as detailed as his previous works but have simple, bolder and powerful strokes.