M. F. Husain: Early Masterpieces 1950s-70s, Asia House, London, 2006, no. 8 illus.
The horse is a personal symbol for Husain. His interest in the subject first began in his youth, through religious stories relayed to him by his grandfather depicting the animal as both heroic and tragic. He also accompanied his grandfather on visits to the local stables, further cementing this interest. Husain has said, "Art has to evolve from your very being, like my horses...I see them as ageless and immortal. They draw chariots in the great epics, they stand proudly in the poorest stables, they are embodiments of strength like the dragons of China." (M.F. Husain with Khalid Mohammed, Where Art Thou, Mumbai, 2002, p. xxii).
In 1952 Husain visited China where he studied the Sung dynasty's depiction of horses in pottery and met with the painter Qi Baishi (1864-1957), who was known for his monochromatic paintings of animals with their minimalist use of line to achieve form and movement.
'Husain's horse swept across continents, amalgamating various influences into composite form. The Duldul horse, which he has seen from his childhood on tazias in Muharram processions, had been modified, first by the Chinese rendering of the horse, and then by the plasticity of form in Franz Marc and Marino Marini's balance between horizontal and vertical lines. Husain's horses, however, are singularly his own.' (Yashodhara Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, New Delhi, 2001, p. 107). With strength of line and raw emotive power, Husain's depictions of horses may indeed be a proxy of Husain himself.
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