Lot 9
  • 9

Maqbool Fida Husain

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
65,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Maqbool Fida Husain
  • Untitled (Village Women)
  • Signed and dated 'Husain / 60' lower right
  • Oil on canvas
  • 100.2 x 50.1 cm. (39 ½ x 19 ½ in.)
  • Painted in 1960


Atlanta, Georgia, Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, Goddess, Lion, Peasant, Priest, March - May, 2011


R. Brown, Goddess, Lion, Peasant, Priest, Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, 2011, illustration p. 101

Catalogue Note

During the late 1950s and 1960s, Husain looked towards pastoral life in India for inspiration, producing a series of works that highlighted the importance of nature and in particular the depiction of a rural utopia. This was in part driven by a post-Independence concern with finding a new national identity. The virtues and values of the villagers were regarded as the backbone of the new independent nation. 'Most artists have been attracted at one time or other to the charm and colour of the Indian countryside and drawn inspiration from it. Few have brought to it the poetic lyricism which Husain has.' (E. Alkazi, M.F. Husain: The Modern Artist & Tradition, Art Heritage, New Delhi, 1978, pp. 13-14).

This painting demonstrates the myriad of artistic sources that Husain used throughout his career. 'Husain drew from the classical, the miniature and the folk and attempted to meld them into a language which formulated the present.' (Y.Dalmia, M.F.Husain: Early Masterpieces 1950s-70s, Asia House, London, 2006). In 1948, Husain visited the India Independence Exhibition with Francis Newton Souza and was struck by the classical Indian sculpture and traditional miniature painting from the Rajput and Pahari courts. "...I deliberately picked up two to 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." (Husain quoted in Nandy, The Illustrated Weekly of India, December 4-10, 1983).

In this painting Husain's placing of the female figures beneath a flowering tree is reminiscent of sculptural depictions of the salabhanjikas and yakshis of ancient India. The symbolism of the female figure in conjunction with fruited foliage has its roots in ancient Indic fertility imagery, wherein the touch of a woman was believed to cause the vegetation to respond and proliferate. These voluptuous nymphs represented not just the principles of earthly fertility but also the generative power of the divine. 

'The central concern of Husain's art, and its dominant motif, is woman... Strong angular lines and flatly applied patches of colour are the instrument of the female form. Woman is seen either as a creation of lyric poetry, a sculpturesque and rhythmic figure of dance, or as an agent of fecundity. '(D. Herwitz, Husain, Delhi, 1988, p. 46).

S. Kapur states, ‘With a comprehensive view of life investing them, Husain has progressively laid bare his figures. They are given no landscape of time and place, no background except carefully worked tonal tensions. These figures have no drapery. They come clothed only in colour. […] they come from a territory however, recognisably Indian in its sensibility and symbolisation: contemplative brooding, often heavy with the mystery of life.’ (S. Kapur, Husain, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1961, pp. v-vi).