Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art / Maqbool Fida Husain (Indian, 1913-2011) Untitled
£150,000 - £200,000
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Private Collection, Delhi; the vendor's family were patrons of the artist.
For a similar work combining Husain's key motifs dating from 1977, see Sotheby's, Contemporary Indian Paintings: The Chester and Davida Herwitz Chartable Trust, New York, 12th June 1995, lot 76.
This Untitled work integrates much of Husain's visual language of horses, women, and the sage Vyasa. There are various examples of his most iconic motif, the horse and explanations for the inspiration behind his horses in this auction, however, what distinguishes the horses in the present lot from the others is that they are portrayed here with gaping mouths and wide staring eyes, and illicit a reaction from the viewer through their ferocity.
Husain's depiction of women on the other hand and as evidenced in this lot, do not arouse a reaction, as they are ascetic, stripped of their exterior embellishments and without any of the abundant sexuality found in Indian sculptures, from which he took inspiration. (Y. Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2001, p. 110-111). It is later on in the 1970s that the artist focuses on the female figure as an erotic subject matter, and his nudes evolved from a formal study of the female figure to an embodiment of the emotions that woman creates in man.
The late 1960s witnessed the emergence of Husain's depictions of the Epics. He started to paint characters from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, having met the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia, who encouraged Husain to paint for the villagers. Vyasa, the sage depicted here recited the Mahabharata to Ganesha, who was the scribe who wrote it.
This lot contains Husain's strongest iconography and marries it with the line, that was Husain's strongest forte according to Yashodhara Dalmia. He has employed the line with a relentless yet economic energy, and the deft strokes emerge from his early acquaintance with calligraphy. Husain himself said that the 'line is a virile force with keen latent mobility, which in spite of being imperceptible in nature, is constantly striving to assert itself.
In terms of the symbolism of the work, Husain probably best describes it himself, when he says, 'They have no extra-pictorial significance, as images [...] They may be symbolic if the particular relationship is effective - because two images when placed together act upon each other. The symbol then derives its life from the energy released.' (R. Bartholomew and S. S. Kapur, Husain, New York 1971, p. 21).