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Untitled (Kashmir)

Untitled (Kashmir)
signed 'Husain' (upper right)
acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted circa 2000s
Commissioned from the artist, Dubai

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Lot Essay

Commissioned from Maqbool Fida Husain as part of a series of large paintings based on India, its landscapes and its people, Untitled (Kashmir) reflects the artist’s profound and lifelong reverence for the country of his birth. Along with Untitled (Gujarat) (lot 670), the present lot pays homage to a region of India that Husain had an extended association with and admiration for.

Paying tribute to the artist, Farooq Nazki described Husain’s relationship with Kashmir, noting, “He visited often not just as an artist but also as a seeker; absorbing and experiencing first-hand the sounds and smells. I remember him traversing the lanes and by lanes of maharajganj, zainakadal and the interiors of downtown Srinagar to get a feel of the real city, its real people. Here he could feel their heartbeats that are enshrined in the architecture. He heard in the noise of the narrow gallis the special rhythms of their life. He was always looking for something, trying to understand, to imbibe and then to reflect in his art. Probably this is what gave him and his art that authenticity” (F. Nazki, ‘Portrait of an Artist’, Greater Kashmir website, 13 March 2015, accessed August 2021).

Featuring a traditionally dressed Kashmiri woman and a bearded man, probably a maulana or religious scholar, this painting builds on Husain’s earlier portrayals of people and life in Kashmir including Kashmiri Belle (1956), Shikara (circa late 1950s) and Kashmiri Couple (1966). Here, the seated figures are portrayed against the region’s Himalayan landscape with snowcapped mountains and several tall, distinctive poplar trees etched against a sapphire-blue sky. Across an oversize book that lies open on the woman’s lap, the polyglot artist uses Farsi script to inscribe the most famous couplet used to describe the valley. Usually attributed to the poet Amir Khusrau, its rough translation reads, “If there is a paradise on earth / It is this, it is this, it is this.”

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