From the outset of his career as an artist, Husain’s vision has remained based on a deeply entrenched Indian sensibility. In 1948 Husain visited the India Independence Exhibition with F. N. Souza where he saw Gupta sculpture and traditional Miniature painting from the Rajput and Pahari courts. This seemed to be a crystallizing moment in his career, acting as the catalyst for the evolution of his own unique visual vocabulary that combines the palette of the Indian miniature tradition with the voluptuous curves and fluid postures of Indian classical sculpture.
‘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 and in 1948 I came out 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 colors 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...’ (Husain in an interview with Pritish Nandy, The Illustrated Weekly of India, December 4-10, 1983).
Husain’s modernism then contends even at its earliest period with an understanding of Indian aesthetics at a fundamental level, the triple axial postures of the figures draws upon the tribhanga postures of Indian sculpture and the tight overlapping forms of the five central figures in the current work are clearly reminiscent of the frieze panels of north Indian temples. Over the years these tensile figures have provided the essential vocabulary of his women. Husain states ‘One reason why I went back to the Gupta period of sculpture was to study the human form... when the British ruled we were taught to draw a figure with the proportions from Greek and Roman sculpture... in the East the human form is an entirely different structure... the way a woman walks in the village there are three breaks... from the feet, the hips and the shoulder...they move in rhythm... the walk of a European is erect and archaic.’ (ibid). Husain has not however merely copied these classical forms but reworked them into his own unique combination of line and form.
‘Husain wields a quick nervous line of great sensitiveness and energy. It is a versatile line, capable of both power and poetry. It divides his forms in firm definition, broods amongst his grouped figures... It lurks in women’s faces in tender almost tentative hint, or threads sharply across his compositions like a scalpel, separating one figure, one face from the other in subtly differentiated tones of colour, as though he sculpted his figures from paint.’ (Shiv S. Kapur, Husain, Lalit Kala Akademi, 1961, p iv).
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