Maqbool Fida Husain (b. 1915)
- Maqbool Fida Husain
- Signed in Devanagari lower left
- Oil on canvas
- 31 by 68 in. (78.7 by 172.7 cm.)
In myths and classical Indian art horses draw the chariot of the sun god Surya; they are symbols of the sun itself, of time and of knowledge. In certain Puranic myths horses are said to have emerged from the sea and from ether and during the early Vedic period horse sacrifice was widely prevalent. The Indian epics and religious treatises contain illuminating references to horse sacrifice. White and black horses were alternately favored, and it is evident that the practice was not only associated with solar worship, but was also intended to secure fertility. For Husain too they are symbols of life sustaining forces, in the current work the sun itself is represented by the chakra at the horse's hooves. When the horse and the nude are compositionally combined, two of the artist's most potent motifs come together to create powerful images full of latent symbolism, either powerfully erotic or sublimely tragic.
'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).
As with many of his paintings, colors reveal the hidden relationship between the various symbols that the artist has adopted from folk or classical art. In the current work the yellow of the sun is reflected in the colors of the nude, the head of the horse and the pivotal yellow palm on the flank of the horse itself. The image appears to rotate around the raised palm and the unifying yellow identifies the essential interdependence of each symbol.
Shiv Kapur writes, 'Some of Husain's symbols are drawn from folk art and are traditional. His manner of using them, however, while retaining the original impulses, takes them beyond their original simple meanings. The human hand for instance, an expressive symbol in Indian dance, recurs frequently in Husain's paintings. It is usally given an independent life, almost separate from the body to which it belongs. It occurs with mystical markings on the palm, is lightly made, sometimes deeply shadowed, inclosed as though upon a secret.' (Shiv S. Kapur, Husain, Lalit Kala Akademi, 1961, p. vii).
In 1952, during his visit to China Husain was captivated by the terracotta horses of the Song dynasty and during his trip to Europe he drew inspiration from the sculptures of Marino Marini. Whatever the various sources of inspiration for his horses, the combination of the horse and the female nude is a symbol that he made uniquely his own.
In the words of Roshan Shahani, 'The relationship of the body to the stallion is a paradox of frenzy and unhurried movement, an elegant dissection of space with line and angle. There is a measure of squared off posture and high leaping which hints at the ecstasy that is enclosed by the flashing lines of Bernini sculptural composition...Husain's horses become a vehicle for multiple utterances - aggression, power and protecion...the brute strength of horses born and released from fabulous regions mutate into thunderbolt energies, phallic and omnipotent.' (Roshan Shahani, Let History Cut across Without Me, New Delhi, 1993, p. 8).