Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art / Maqbool Fida Husain (Indian, 1913-2011) Untitled (Cow and White Lady)
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Private Collection, France;
Acquired from the artist by the vendor in 1956/1957 in Pondicherry.
For a watercolour depicting a similar composition dating from 1957, see Sotheby's, Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art, London, 25th October 2017, lot 13.
Note: The work is in its original frame.
Husain's paintings in the 1950s were an amalgamation of various influences that included Gupta sculptures, Basholi miniatures, Chinese calligraphy, Western Art, and the Partition of India in 1947. Whilst it is difficult to attribute which source played a more pertinent role in each of his works, it would not be erroneous to say that the aftermath of Partition is evident in the present lot. Husain chose to remain in India after 1947, despite being a practising Muslim. He travelled extensively around the country and in order to reconcile his decision and articulate it artistically he chose to identify with the rural and tribal people of India, who despite their differing religions, were unified in their poverty. Husain's works from this period therefore are dominated by the rural cultural landscape of India, and the present lot is an archetypal example of this. For another work of a similar style dating from the same period, see K. Bikram Singh, Maqbool Fida Husain, New Delhi, 2008, p.75, figure 57.
'There is an exalted dignity about the people who inhabit Husain's canvasses. Peasants, workers, craftsmen, women toiling in fields of huddled together in conversation all have self-contained poise, the stoic patience and grace associated with the common people. He captures their postures and lineaments their distinctive ethos and culture...not by physiognomy or costume alone are they differentiated, but in their total bearing and presence.' (Alkazi, M.F. Husain: The Modern Artist and Tradition, New Delhi, 1978, p. 22)
Critic Yashodhara Dalmia goes further and has drawn parallels between Husain and Amrita Sher-Gil's rural themed works, delineating that 'Husain drew from the classical, the miniature and folk and attempted to meld it into a language which formulated the present. It allowed him to express a perceived reality which while being seamless, mythical and vast was at the same time hurtling towards industrialisation and modernisation. Husain took Amrita's legacy further toward a more authentic stage. His villagers are not particularly beautiful; but surrounded by their tools, their animals... they appear more truly alive, secure and rooted in their environment.' (Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, Delhi, 2001, p. 107