Lot 46
  • 46

Maqbool Fida Husain (b. 1915)

400,000 - 600,000 USD
482,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Maqbool Fida Husain
  • That Obscure Object of Desire (Diptych)
  • Signed 'Husain' upper left

    Executed in the 1980s

  • Oil on canvas
  • Overall 67 1/2 by 136 in. (171.5 by 345.4 cm.)


Rashda Siddiqui, MF Husain: In Conversation with Husain Paintings, New Delhi, 2001, p. 216

Catalogue Note

"Cinema is where / the action is / Where love can light a fire underwater / And keep it burning bright forever" (MF Husain, Where Art Thou, Mumbai, 2002, p.77)

Central to MF Husain's career is the artist's fascination with cinema. Trained as a billboard painter for Bollywood films in the early 1940's, Husain has perpetually revisited the cinematic arts – both as a painter, famously portraying actors Madhuri Dixit and Amitabh Bachchan; and as a critically acclaimed filmmaker, director and producer.

In 1967, Husain's film debut, Through the Eyes of a Painter, garnered critical acclaim and won the highest prize at the Berlin Film Festival. Husain was equally influenced by international cinema, and in particular by the Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, considered one of the finest directors in cinematic history. Buñuel's surrealistic film That Obscure Object of Desire inspired a series of Husain paintings, known by the same name..

Daniel Herwitz notes: "Husain began working on this series immediately after [viewing] the Buñuel film of the same title. Husain stated, 'I had been working on the Mahabharata series with its conflicts, and then I saw the Buñuel film. I decided immediately to turn to contemporary things.' These series (Mahabharata and That Obscure Object of Desire) share an epical and cinematic concern with the fate of conflict. To glean the point it is worth reviewing the Bunuel film which has inspired Husain's works.

"The film is about a male character whose desire for a certain woman leads to entrapment. The entrapment is that of a situation in which the man cannot tell who this woman - the object of his desire - is. Specifically the woman turns out to be a dual figure played by two look-alike yet distinct actresses who play her as alternately passionate and cruel, enticing and rejecting, kind and humiliating. The key is that the woman is an obscure object, one whose integrity and identity are in doubt." (Daniel Herwitz, Husain, Bombay, 1988, p. 26)

This large diptych from the 1980s, inspired by Buñuel's film of the same title, likely represents the film's final scene in which the two lovers, finally reunited, are both killed by a bomb blast while strolling through the streets of Madrid. Their death is foreshadowed in the penultimate scene, in which the blissful couple passes a haberdasher mending a bloody wedding veil. Husain immortalizes this moment, and the blood-stained veil features prominently in the lower right quadrant of the canvas. The explosion, rendered across the top of the canvas in blue and yellow, forces the central figure to the ground as he reaches out his hand in a dying gesture. In this moment, Husain captures the surrealistic pathos of Buñuel's final film.