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Audio: Maqbool Fida Husain's Yatra
MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1915-2011)
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PROPERTY FROM THE KEEHN FAMILY COLLECTION
MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1915-2011)

Yatra

Details
MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1915-2011)
Yatra
signed and dated 'Husain 1955' (lower left); bearing partial label 'Property of Mr. & Mrs. T.' (on the stretcher bar, on the reverse)
oil on canvas
33½ x 42 7/8 in. (85.1 x 108.9 cm.)
Painted in 1955
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist in 1955 - 1956
Thence by descent
Literature
8 Painters, exhibition catalogue, New Delhi, 1956 (illustrated, unpaginated)
E. Alkazi, M. F. Husain: The Modern Artist & Tradition, New Delhi, 1978, p. 17, pl. 17 (illustrated)
R. Bartholomew and S. S. Kapur, Maqbool Fida Husain, New York, 1972 pl. 46 (illustrated)
T. B. Keehn Family, India Ink: Letters from India 1953-61 by Martha McKee Keehn and The Keehn Collection of Modern Indian Art, New Delhi, 2000, p. 96 (illustrated)
Jeffrey Wechsler and Umesh Gaur, India: Contemporary Art from Northeastern Private Collections, New Jersey, 2002, p. 56, pl. 35 (illustrated)
Exhibited
New Delhi, 8 Painters, November 1956
New York, BosePacia Modern, The Keehn Collection: Important Paintings of Post-Independence India, September - October 1997
New Brunswick, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, India: Contemporary Art from Northeastern Private Collections, April - July 2002

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Lot Essay

My paintings, drawings and the recent paper work have been directly influenced by my experience of traditional Indian dolls, paper toys, shapes galores. The experience of being with them, and the inspiration to create them, are inseparable. A painter is a child in his purity of feeling-for only then he creates with authenticity of his being.
(Artist Statement, Ajit Mookerjee, Modern Art in India, Oxford Book, Calcutta, 1956, p. 61)
Forging a pictorial language evoking contemporary India, its rhythm and energy, Yatra captures the charm and color of the Indian countryside in its most serene and lyrical state. Painted in 1955, Husain exhibited it for the first time in 1956 in the 8 Painters show where he chose this painting as one of his best and most representative work alongside Between Spider and the Lamp which was then incomplete. It was in 1955, Husain won the Lalit Kala Akademi award for his painting Zameen, now in the collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.
Over the years, Yatra came to be the hallmark of his works from the 50s, also chosen to be published in the first and the most important monograph on Husain published in 1972 by Harry N. Abrams. In 1978, Ebrahim Alkazi, in his monograph on Husain describes Yatra and writes, "Most artists have been attracted at one time or other to the charm and colour of the Indian countryside and drawn inspiration from it. Few have brought to it the poetic lyricism which Husain has. Here the sight of a simple country cart sets him off on a journey, a pilgrimage ('yatra') into the time and world of ancient myth. A rural family is on its way in a cart, an ordinary enough event. However we are astonished to discover that the driver is none other than Hanuman, and just as he had carried the healing herbs to the stricken Lakshman on the battle-field, here he raises aloft an entire village. Translated into ridiculously prosaic terms, it seems to imply that it is the villages which nourish us and bring us solace. Husain's concept is intensely poetic: with a stroke of genius, the entire mythic world which has enriched the minds of the common people is brought vividly alive. Past and present, myth and reality are shown to exist simultaneously in the Indian imagination. The yatra into past time and racial memory is not that of the characters alone; it is the yatra of the artist, and provoked by him, of the viewer.
Any number of indigenous art traditions are integrated into the artist's concept: the high horizon slender sky-line, colours and treatment of space from the miniatures, the form of the woman and the oxen from ancient sculpture, the simplifications and distortions from folk art as well as modern styles which have become common currency throughout the world."
(E. Alkazi, M. F. Husain: The Modern Artist & Tradition, Art Heritage, New Delhi, 1978, p. 17)

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