Audio: Maqbool Fida Husain, Untitled
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signed in Tamil (upper right)
oil on canvas
39 7/8 x 70¼ in. (101.3 x 178.4 cm.)
Painted circa 1960s
Acquired directly from the artist in the early 1970s by Mrs. Abraham of Kalayatra Gallery, Chennai
Thence by descent

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Deepanjana Klein
Deepanjana Klein

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Lot Essay

"Husain views each painting as a fragment of music whose counterpoint exists elsewhere, and his entire painterly activity as one immense effort at orchestration of all the notes that he hears struck upon his personality. No painting is intended as a complete statement. In a continuing inquiry into the nature of being, every one of his wide array of works, joyous or grave, leaves the viewer with an intimation of other possibilities." (R. Bartholomew and S. Kapur, Husain, New York, 1972, p. 60)

Inspired and fascinated by Indian classical music and dance, Maqbool Fida Husain has recurrently paid homage to cultural traditions through his paintings, most notably in the period from the end of the 1950s to the late 1960s. Exploring the relationship between the aesthetics of modern painting and those of classical Indian music and dance, Husain appropriated the visual interpretations of Indian musical modes in Ragamala paintings, whereby each Raga recreated a different emotion. In this complex composition, Husain uses the canvas, seemingly split into three distinct but interrelated spaces, to convey his innate Indian vernacular. The sitar player takes centerstage, seemingly split between two worlds, where female dancers are juxtaposed against an intimate trio of singers and drummers. "Even in groups, sitting or standing together, these men and women are supremely solitary. They do not communicate with each other. They remain locked in a binding compassion, in a unity of colour and composition divided by a wondrously understanding line." (Husain, Lalit Kala Akademi, Bombay, 1961, p. V) Despite their separation, Husain's rich and varied palette injects a sense of harmony and the musician and dancer's movements and body language infuse a powerful rhythm and energy into this work. Husain presents these separated fragments as an integrated whole, just as instruments come together in concert.

In every aspect of this painting, color, form and subject matter, we are reminded that "behind every stroke of the artist's brush is a vast hinterland of traditional concepts, forms, meanings. His vision is never uniquely his own; it is a new perspective given to collective experience of his race. It is in this fundamental sense that we speak of Husain being in the authentic tradition of Indian art. He has been unique in his ability to forge a pictorial language which is indisputably of the contemporary Indian situation but surcharged with all the energies, the rhythms of his art heritage." (E. Alkazi, M. F. Husain: The Modern Artist & Tradition, Art Heritage, New Delhi, pp. 3-4)

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