MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1915-2011)
MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1915-2011)

Kobra

Details
MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1915-2011)
Kobra
signed in Hindi and Urdu and dated '68' (lower left); bearing sticker 'KOBRA OIL, 50 x 40 CNN' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
49 7/8 x 40 1/8 in. (126.7 x 102 cm.)
Painted in 1968
Provenance
Christie's New York, 20 September 2006, lot 35
Literature
R. Bartholemew and S. Kapur, Husain, New York, 1972, pl. 167 (illustrated)

Lot Essay

"His own work of that time celebrates the experience and the sensation of love, while mourning the loss of love that he could already see ahead [...] Husain painted musicians and dancers, horses and bathers, nudes and lovers." (R. Bartholomew & S. Kapur, Maqbool Fida Husain, New York, 1972, p. 41)

When this work by M.F. Husain was first published in the seminal 1972 Abrams catalogue on Husain, the illustration depicted this work before it was finished, before it was even signed and Bartholomew and Kapur, the book's authors, attributed the title 'Lesbians'. This fully realized version of the work signed and titled Kobra thematically and formally suggests classical Greek mythology. These two Amazonian women conjoin in classical contraposto suggesting warriors as much as lovers. The figure on the left brandishes an abstracted shield which almost organically protrudes from her protracted limbs. "Even if the figures are not in motion, the curvilinear forms, their stances, the rhythmic lines, the use of paint are all employed with a sense of urgency and create a feeling of exuberance which is typical of him [Husain] and his personality." (P. Sen, 'The Figure in Indian Art', Lalit Kala Contemporary 17, Delhi, 1974, p. 11)

Though Husain depicts these woman embraced in ensemble, they also appear fractured and somehow removed from each other. "Husain's nudes of this period are abstractions, occasionally tender but for the most part curiously aloof and impersonal. They invite, more than anything else, reflection on the lack of communication between individuals even at their most intimate. They do not communicate the warmth or sensation of sex."(R. Bartholomew & S. Kapur, Maqbool Fida Husain, New York, 1972, p. 42) These classical warrior women, stripped down to their basic formal elements are charged with an energy beyond sexuality and sensuality, which harks back to hallowed antiquity.
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