Maqbol Fida Husain (India, b.1915) Horses and Nudes
Painted circa 1979.
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist in 1981.
The Horse remains the most powerful and recurring symbol in Husains oeuvre. He states 'If it hadnt been for my horses, I would not have survived. My Horses saved me.' He is referring to his transition from a billboard painter to his status as the most successful and well-known modern Indian artist.
The image of the horse holds several symbolic connotations for Husain. One is of the Ardh Nareshwar (half man/half woman) which is a combination of the passionate and aggressive male (the head) and the beautiful and graceful woman (the back). The horse is also a symbol of loyalty and companionship, epitomised in a Dul-dul horse which accompanied Husains namesake, the prophet Mohammeds grandson, into battle at Karbala. The one attribute all Husains horses have in common is that they are used as a metaphor for powerful and valiant characteristics rather than as stylised animals.
The nudes who are riding the horses in the current work have a sculptural quality about them, yet are not grounded in any way and are in constant motion along with their companions. Although there seems to be no significance in the placement of the figures, their interaction with the horses nevertheless produces powerful imagery.
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