MF Husain  Horse Blue Black D-65 (1969)  Oil  on canvas  60" x 30" Horse Blue Black
Lot 309*
Maqbool Fida Husain (India, 1913-2011)
Horse Blue Black
Sold for £ 125,000 (US$ 164,621) inc. premium

Lot Details
Maqbool Fida Husain (India, 1913-2011)
Horse Blue Black
Signed in Devanagari upper left, further signed in English and inscribed 'D-65/XI '69' and entitled on reverse
Oil on canvas
158 x 77.5cm (62 3/16 x 30 1/2in).


  • Provenance:
    Private US collection
    Acquired from DuMouchelles Auction House, Detroit in 1993 or 1994

    Maqbool Fida Husain was an internationally renowned Indian painter of the 20th century. Born in Pandharpur in 1915, he was originally apprenticed to a tailor but preferred to teach himself how to draw and paint. He studied briefly at the Indore School of Art where he won a gold medal for an oil portrait. On moving to Bombay in 1937 he made a living painting cinema billboards and in the 1940s he painted and designed nursery furniture and making flat wooden toys. He was a formative member of the Progressive Artists Group of Bombay who were focussed on creating a new technique of painting after The Partition in 1947. As a Bohra Muslim his religious education and background have been a constant source of inspiration. His later works sparked controversy and resulted in self-imposed exile. The current work on offer dates to a much earlier, but no less important period in Husain's career.

    While most of his horses tend to be depicted rearing or galloping across a wide space symbolising power and speed, a daemonic energy has often been associated with his horses, this horse is more crouched on its back legs with the head bent backwards over its own body, squashed into the space afforded by the size of the canvass. Despite this perhaps subdued depiction of the horse, its power, presence and possible daemon is still evident from the suggestion of rearing, the neighing mouth bearing teeth and the dark penetrating eye. The typical black brush strokes add to the sense of strength and aggression. In India the horse is a symbol of male virility and is deemed to be aggressive in nature. This is tempered by the pale blue, white and grey shades of the background descending into the darker colours surrounding the horse. These more subdued and delicate colours could be the result of influence gained from Husain's trip to China in 1952 which left him with long lasting memories and could be said to be reminiscent of Chinese blue and white ware.

    Horses figure prominently in Husain's work. The reasons for this are likely to be varied, though Husain notes that one of his earliest influences comes from the procession to commemorate the Prophet's grandson which involved the carrying of an effigy of his horse through the streets. The manner in which the horse is painted is reminiscent of a puppet or wooden effigy, strengthening the link with the Islamic holiday of the prophet's grandson. Additionally, Husain had worked in a children's toy and furniture factory during the 1940s and it is possible that many of his horse paintings draw heavily on the manner of the construction of puppet horses. Husain was also heavily influenced by the terracotta horses he saw during his visit to China. Since their domestication, horses have been important subjects for art and religion and have helped build civilizations, no less so in Hinduism. Husain was fascinated with his own roots but also learning and assimilating other cultures as sources of inspiration. As such this painting exemplifies this wonderfully: the horse as a symbol of power and tradition, a part of Islamic culture, an influence from China, and painted in a style reminiscent of European Cubism. "All forms of art are born from one's roots" , perhaps Husain wished to explore as many artistic roots as possible.

    The start of the first Indo-Pakistani war in 1965 marks a change in Husain's painting style, most notably with the depiction of horses. These now appear riderless and are transfixed by arrows. The daemonic element suggested before this date becomes more evident with signs of panic shown through "erect manes, dilated nostrils, and blindly lunging movement, rendered with the utmost clarity of line and colour". While this painting is slightly later (1969) it exhibits many of these traits so Husain's trip to Karbala in 1965 and the beginning of the war a year later cannot be ignored as important milestones that served as influences.
    "I say this about myself: I sell horses and make films"

    "My horses like lightning, cut across many horizons. Seldom their hooves are shown. They hop around the spaces. From the battlefield of "Karbala" to Baukura terra cota, from the Chinese Tse pei Hung horse to St. Marco horse, from ornate armoured "Duldul" to challenging white of "Ashwamedh" ..... the cavalcade of my horses is multidimensional."
    (Husain, Tata Steel Publications, 1987, p. 83)
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