Maqbool Fida Husain (b. 1915)
- Maqbool Fida Husain
- Signed and dated 'HUSAIN/ 53' upper right
- Oil on canvas
- 25 3/4 by 21 1/4 in. (65 by 54 cm.)
In the current work as with many of Husain's early canvases, a seated woman is central to the composition. The female figure dominates the canvas almost overpowering the two diminutive figures of children who appear at her side. Of particular importance is the symbolism of the female holding a lamp which becomes a central theme in his early works.
Female figures in these early paintings are often identified with Husain's own mother who died when he was very young. The paintings are highly personal expressions of this loss and reveal the longing he felt for a mother figure during his childhood. 'My Mother Zainab died when I was two years old. I had fallen seriously ill and her desperate prayer was that her life should be taken and my life spared. That is exactly what happened. Though alive I counted myself extremely unfortunate. Can anyone make up for the loss of a mother? I don't even have a picture of her...Sadly I have nothing which remotely reminds me of my mother. She is just a name to me not even a memory.' (Husain quoted in Gowri Ramnaarayan, Bioscope, A Steed and A Sketchbook, Past Forward, New Delhi, 1997, p. 14).
Unlike many of his other early canvases that depict faceless veiled women the current work reveals a soft visage in three-quarter profile. In this instance the light emanating from the lamp draws the children towards it and appears to be symbolic of motherly love towards a child rather than the erotic love that the lamp comes to symbolize in his later canvases. Several critics have seen the lamp as a protective motif that re-appears in other works, including most famously Husain's masterly painting Between the Spider and the Lamp. Although the current work predates Between the Spider and the Lamp by three years it should be considered an important conceptual forerunner to the latter and reveals how for Husain an idea can crystallize and evolve over several years and in many canvases.
'Husain views each painting as a fragment of music whose counterpoint exists elsewhere, and his entire painterly activity as one immense effort at orchestration of all the notes that he hears struck upon his personality. No painting is intended as a complete statement. In a continuing inquiry into the nature of being, every one of his wide array of works, joyous or grave, leaves the viewer with an intimation of other possibilities.' (Richard Bartholomew and Shiv S. Kapur, Husain, New York, 1971, p. 60).