Hal Bevan Petman was indeed a remarkable man. 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!

His family lived in the sub-continent and had diversified enterprises, among which were mines in Balochistan. At partition, and Pakistan’s independence, these mines were requisitioned by the Government. Hal Bevan Petman chose to live in Pakistan with his wife, Beryl, and for decades tried to win compensation for his family business. Finally, after having met President Ayub Khan, he was awarded some compensation.

Hal Bevan was a very engaging, interesting and knowledgeable man who talked of all kinds of subject matter while he painted his subjects, usually attractive young women, who sat for him, on average, for an hour or two each morning, for about three days. At the end of that time, voila! A beautiful portrait! Really, a surprisingly lovely, portrait! He had a way with light which brought out the most flattering features of the face. He was a professional and the best! We were fortunate to have him make his home in Pakistan and to have within the country one of the world’s greatest portrait painters.

He would advise the sitter to compliment the painting by a distinguished frame which would be ordered by him. A local framer would make excellent frames to his specifications, to match smaller portraits. The larger, masterpiece portraits would have frames imported from England.   The colour tones of the frames would match the portrait.

Hal, although disabled, did not dwell on his disability. Both Hal and Beryl lived in a cottage at the Rawalpindi Club. Each summer, they would move to the hill; to the quaint and charming Bhurban Hotel which was run by a very competent lady, named Mrs. Keysburn, who always sought to please her clients. The pride of the hotel was the lawn and flowers in front of each room which was a picturesque sight past the open verandah. The high-light at the beginning of each summer season was when the Bevan Petmans, arrived with Hal being carried into his room.

Families with young children would come up for their holidays from Karachi or from the hot plains, and enjoy the challenging, hilly Bhurban Golf course which was to be found by a walk through the woods adjoining the hotel. Everyone enjoyed the walks and the refreshing weather, the occasional visits to the small town nearby, Murree, and the drives, the climbs and the walks in the beautiful, mountain areas of Nathiagali.

In the summer of 1965, Beryl approached me to have a portrait painted. I was delighted and honoured that Hal had asked to paint my portrait. I sat for him in his room, close to a window, wearing a frilly, white blouse, with the sleeves torn off by Beryl to present the most flattering angles of the face and torso. I looked forward to the sittings, as while Hal painted, in his soft voice, he told such interesting stories with much humour and of interest to the sitter. He would talk of his own experiences but also subjects related to the life of his portrait subject. We left Bhurban with one of the most precious possessions. A lovely, memory of the carefree time when I was a young and beautiful woman. Yes, he did manage to make one feel beautiful.

A few years later, my sister and my young son, went on holiday to Bhurban and this time Hal painted a portrait of my five year old, younger, son. On our return to Karachi, I felt that my older son, felt left out at seeing the two portraits in our bed room. He had been away at school in England and was not present with us in Bhurban. Finally, I made it a point/mission to visit Rawalpindi with my older son and have his portrait painted. At last, we had portraits of both our sons. In the late seventies, my Dad passed away and I asked Hal to paint a portrait of him from a photograph, taken on my parents’ fortieth anniversary. He caught the mood, and even the sadness in his eyes, while he was smiling. After seeing that portrait, my husband wanted Hal to paint a portrait of his father, who had passed away decades’ ago. Hal obliged with a portrait painted from a small picture.

Unfortunately, my own father’s portrait which was hanging in his office in Karachi was destroyed by fire, caused by a short circuit, but to our luck and pleasure we still own the other four portraits of family members painted by Hal Bevan Petman. We truly feel honoured and blessed to have these memorable objects of art which are so personal.

Not long after, we heard of the passing of Hal. We had lost a dear friend.
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