Untitled (Gujarat)

Untitled (Gujarat)
signed 'Husain' (lower right)
acrylic on canvas
50¾ x 82 in. (128.9 x 208.3 cm.)
Painted circa 2000s
Commissioned from the artist, Dubai

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Lot Essay

The present lot, a monumental painting that pays homage to Gujarat and its colorful culture and people, features several of Maqbool Fida Husain’s most well-known figures and subjects, including a horse, a group of Navratri dancers, baby Krishna and a royal couple from the Indian Raj. By inscribing a decorative orange, green and gold border around his group of characters and vignettes in this painting, Husain also pays tribute to the vibrant folk and tribal art and textile traditions of the state, particularly those from the Kutch peninsula.

Husain’s association with Gujarat was lifelong. His step-mother’s family came from Sidhpur, in the northern part of the state, and his grandfather, whom he shared a close childhood relationship with, is buried in Ahmedabad. As a child, Husain also studied in a madrassa or religious school in Baroda, where he learnt not only about calligraphy and poetry, but also about Gandhi and the Indian freedom struggle, all of which remained sources of inspiration throughout his career. Some years later in the 1940s, when he was starting out as a painter of film hoardings in Bombay, Husain recalls frequently getting away to Gujarat to paint, inspired by its vivid and varied vistas. “As soon as I earned a little bit I used to take off for Surat, Baroda and Ahmedabad to paint landscapes” (Artist statement, P. Chandra, M.F. Husain, A Pictorial Tribute, New Delhi, 2011, p. 193).

Over the years, Husain established close friendships with many artists, gallerists and collectors who lived in Baroda and Ahmedabad, making several spontaneous trips to these cities. The artist’s enduring association with Gujarat was commemorated in the early 1990s, when Husain designed and built an underground museum and exhibition space in Ahmedabad in collaboration with his friend and Pritzker Prize winning architect, B.V. Doshi. The artist fondly recalled this milestone, noting, “There is so much to Ahmedabad’s beautiful architecture which has inspired me to make many drawings. And it is the home of Mahatma Gandhi which has given the city a very special identity. To pay tribute to this very special city, I agreed to the idea of ‘Amdavad Ni Gufa’, which is a museum of my work. It was first called ‘Husain-Doshi Gufa’ as it is collaboration between architect B.V. Doshi and myself, but then I felt it should be dedicated to the city. I took a brush in hand and repainted the board myself” (Artist statement, P. Chandra, Ibid., 2011, p. 82).

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