In the early 1950s when Maqbool Fida Husain painted his first horses, it was more significant than one artist’s formal and aesthetic consideration. From East to West, throughout history, the horse has been a universal fascination and inspiration for artists. From Chinese terracotta of antiquity to Ancient Rome to Leonardo to Gericault to Picasso, the horse has been a perennial muse which has transcended time, circumstance and culture. The relationship between the artist and this revered beast is also profoundly personal, becoming a vehicle of outward expression of both an inner meditation and a universal subject.
Husain frequently encountered the equine effigy throughout his life across cultures all over the world. He acknowledges the influence of Tang pottery horses he studied on a trip to China and the equestrian sculptures discovered after a trip to Italy revealing also a deep admiration for Ancient Greece, a civilization which championed and deified the equestrian form. The Trojan Horse, Pegasus and Alexander’s prized Bucephalus are only a few iconic stallions which permeate the mythological and historical past of hallowed antiquity.
Husain makes it clear; his horses are both personal and universal and it is this juxtaposition that sets this intimate painting apart. The combination of Husain’s own self portrait along with that of his friend Chandini Powar, resonates with an affection that characterized their relationship.
“In this Yatra of my artist life, my greatest fortune was being associated and nurtured by the genius, M.F. Husain.
I saw Mr. Husain for the first time in 1978, when he was awarded the Mysore University Honorary Doctorate Award. After the ceremony I got to meet him personally at the dinner party that was hosted for the award recipients. My mother, an artist herself, causally invited him to visit our home to see my paintings, which he did the next day, accompanied by few local artists of Mysore. As a student, I was very self-conscious showing my works to this great master and hesitatingly asked him that how can I become a great painter like him?
With a mischievous smile he answered 'Don't paint at all, all you do is just keep looking at the paints and the brushes!' His reply puzzled me for a long time. Later I realized that his answer was the idea of Zanshin, the Japanese martial art of archery.
Sometimes he would come down to visit my family in Mysore. He would transform one of our larger rooms of our professor's bungalow of my father into his nomadic studio. He would paint all night and would be gone by the next morning either to London or Vienna leaving behind small notes saying "use all the colors, brushes, canvases and clean the room up." The last time I saw him was with my daughter Valerie, on his birthday in New York in 2009. Until his death in 2011 he encouraged, inspired and gave me great courage. He remained a great friend to me and my family." - Chandini Powar