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MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1913-2011)
My horses like lightning, cut across many horizons. Seldom their hooves are shown. They hop around the spaces. From the battlefield of "Karbala" to Bankura terracota, from the Chinese Tse pei Hung [Xu Beihong] horse to St. Marco horse, from ornate armoured "Duldul" to challenging white of "Ashwamedh" [...] the cavalcade of my horses is multidimensional. - M.F. Husain PROPERTY FROM A PROMINENT COLLECTOR
MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1913-2011)

Untitled (Horses and Rider)

Details
MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1913-2011)
Untitled (Horses and Rider)
signed in Hindi and signed and dated 'Husain 79' (upper left); further signed 'Husain' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
49 3/8 x 84 in. (125.4 x 213.4 cm.)
Painted in 1979
Provenance
Vadehra Gallery, New Delhi
Glenbarra Art Museum, Himeji, Japan
Sotheby's New York, 29 March 2006, lot 74

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Umah Jacob
Umah Jacob

Lot Essay

The horse became a central part of Husain's oeuvre in the early 1950s, when he first painted the animal. Almost always, the artist portrays his equestrian figures as strong creatures, usually galloping, with reared heads, flared nostrils and a tremendous sense of dynamism. His inspiration to paint horses was derived from a combination of sources, notably his travels in China and Italy, where he studied Tang pottery horses and discovered the equestrian sculptures of the artist Marino Marini (1901-1980). However, what is likely to have been more influential is an event he witnessed for the first time as a fifteen year old boy: once a year during Muharram, when the religious mourned the death of Imam Husain, the Prophet's son, they would carry tazias or effigies of Imam Husain's faithful horse in a procession through the streets. "[...] the earliest icon that he had a part in creating was the apocalyptic horse of the tazias. He was to remain loyal to that icon; it never strayed far from his imagination in his subsequent paintings." (R. Bartholomew and S. Kapur, Husain, New York, 1971, p. 32)

Husain's horses are not plastic forms treated to stylistic variations; rather, they are sensuous creatures that have become his personal symbols. In this painting, the four horses and the lone rider are dramatically framed against a crimson background, under an ominous black sun. The umber frame around the figures gives this composition a theatricality that perhaps draws from Husain's long association with cinema and cinema billboards. Through an uninhibited use of impasto, the artist conveys a sense of raw, unimpeded power. According to Ebrahim Alkazi, horses are usually recognised as symbols of the sun and knowledge, and are associated with life-giving and sustaining forces. Husain's horses have become "[...] a vehicle for multiple utterances -- aggression, power and protection." (R. Shahani, Let History Cut Across Me Without Me, New Delhi, 1993, p. 8)
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