Maqbool Fida Husain (b. 1915)
- Maqbool Fida Husain
- Signed, dated and inscribed 'ZÜRICH/ HUSAIN/ 1953' upper left
- Oil on canvas
- 47 1/2 by 47 1/2 in. (120.9 by 120.9 cm.)
In 1952 Husain held a solo exhibition in Zurich and the current work from the following year must have been painted in Zurich at the end of his time there. This seminal painting from 1953, a period when the artist was still discovering his language and style, is composed with the rhythmic, confident line that later became Husain's trademark. As previously discussed traditional Indian toys and folk art were central to Husain's inspiration at this time and provided him with the building blocks for a new visual vocabulary in his own work. ' The fascination for these toys grew beyond a childish fancy into a curious affection. They were not mere shapes but represented a world of joys and sorrows. The world of his childhood dream had become alive, reflecting the varied moods of its creator; playful but poignantly aware of the life beyond.' (Ayaz S. Peerbhoy, Paintings of Husain, Bombay , 1955, introductory essay).
The painting bears a striking similarity to another work from 1952 titled Pull (Richard Bartholemew and Shiv S. Kapur, Husain, New York, 1971, pl 31, illustrated) and both form part of a group of works inspired by the village puppeteer, later examples from this group include the 1959 work Puppets (Geeta Kapur, Husain, Bombay, 1969, pl 32, illustrated) and the 1963 canvas the Puppet Dancers (P. R. Ramachandra Rao, Contemporary Indian Art, Chennai, 1969, pl 20, illustrated). When compared as a group it is apparent that these later works become more technically complex in their use and application of color and in the structuring of the composition, but even in these early works Husain is sensitive to 'the force of symbolization' and his visit to Europe clearly released the full potential of his symbolic language.
Using an earthy palette of blue, grey and brown oil paints, and expressionistic brushstrokes, the artist expresses the multiple realities of India on canvas. Here, a monumental village puppeteer pulls on thin sticks to control his marionette couple. The puppets, rendered in blue, are most likely telling the story of Krishna and his consort Radha, a poular subject in north Indian villages even today. One senses in the puppet series that Husain is using the symbol as an artistic joke at two levels; as an artist he has become the puppet master of his own compositions and yet the works also beg more universal questions concerning the fate of Man within the universe, a theme that Husain returns to frequently over the coming decades.