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MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1913-2011)

Untitled (Female Figures)

Details
MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1913-2011)
Untitled (Female Figures)
signed and dated in Hindi (lower right)
oil on canvas
16 x 30 in. (40.6 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1959

Lot Essay

In 1948, Husain travelled with Francis Newton Souza to Delhi where they attended the exhibition of Indian antiquities and classical art organised during the first year of independence (refer to lot 66). Husain recalls, "We went to Delhi together to see that big exhibition of Indian sculptures and miniatures which was shown in 1948 [...] It was humbling. I came back to Bombay in 1948 with five paintings, which was the turning point in my life. I deliberately picked up two or three periods of Indian history. One was the classical period of the Guptas. The very sensuous form of the female body. Next, was the Basholi period. The strong colours of the Basholi miniatures. The last was the folk element. With these three combined, and using colours - very boldly as I did with cinema hoardings [...] I went to town [...] That was the breaking point [...] To come out of the influence of British Academic painting and the Bengal revivalist school." (M.F. Husain quoted by P. Nandy, The Illustrated Weekly of India, December 4-10, 1983; cited by Y. Dalmia, 'M.F. Husain: Re-inventing India', M.F. Husain: Early Masterpieces 1950's-70's, exhibition catalogue, Asia House, London, 2006, unpaginated)

In this painting, one can see the influence of classical Indian sculpture, the aesthetic relationship Husain perceives between dance, sculpture and painting, and the artist's interest in communicating this relationship using a flat two-dimensional surface. Here, the group of women is differentiated from their austere, desert-like surroundings by Husain's strong, confident line. Standing and seated in graceful postures borrowed from Indian sculpture, these figures come together against the defined horizon and dark, setting sun to imbue the painting with a sense of rhythm.

"Mr Husain has perfected the delineation of the female torso in all its sensuousness and ascetic withdrawal. These qualities are typically Indian. There is desire as well as the discipline of orthodoxy - much ardour and provocation and at the same time something of the chastity which is ideal of the Orient. The drawing is certain and daringly economical. The thick, muscular, exploratory line is broken or interrupted by blocks of bold colour. This line is different from the slender graceful line of the Pahari painters or the revelatory voluptuousness so characteristic of Matisse's drawing. Poise and resplendent colour, emotively used, provide the spectator the key to the prevailing mood." (R. Bartholomew, 'Ten Paintings by M.F. Husain', Thought, 12 April, 1958)

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