The present lot is part of one of Husain’s most important and evocative themes where the focus is the woman and motherhood. Husain’s women are often depicted engaged in some form of activity such as he has in the present lot where he depicts a woman reading, with two little children who are attempting to catch her attention. Perhaps Husain alludes to his mother, but regardless, Husain depicts her as everywoman. As Shiv Kapur declares, “The prime symbol of Husain's total view of life is the woman, again perhaps the Indian woman. For pain comes to woman as her natural state, the giving of birth and, because of birth, an awareness of dissolution. Woman is the sentient point of man's natural being, She has curiosity, she suffers, she gives birth willingly. There is pity in her yes, as there is love in her breast. Man is, according to Husain, virile only in heroism, is broken by pain. Husain paints women because these are not heroic times and, tenderly joyous or suffering, women remain vital.” (S. Kapur, Husain, Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi, 1961, pp. 5-6). All Husain’s women are shrouded in an ‘invisible veil’ according to Dalmia and perhaps because of the void his mother’s early passing left in his life, a fact Husain confirms, “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 mine 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. She refused to get herself photographed…Sadly I have nothing which remotely resembles or reminds me of my mother. She is just a name to me, not even a memory” (ibid. p. 111).
It was perhaps this yearning for his mother’s memory that remained in his mind, which resulted in Husain painting the present lot. Similar to his seminal work Blue Night painted in 1959, it is an arresting and beautiful depiction of a faceless woman reading next to a blue lamp which was symbolic of Husain's grandfather who repaired lamps for a living. Thus the two most important influences in Husain’s life are depicted in one painting. The present lot draws heavily on much of the imagery in Blue Night, the woman with an amulet, holding a book in her right hand, the yellow lamp burning brightly before her, and two little children, possibly alluding to his own children, whom he is believed to have seen very little of because of the commitments of his growing career which resulted in him spending much of his time away from them, and who were just as he yearned for his mother, yearning for him. Thus the present lot might very possibly have been inspired directly by Blue Night and could be its companion painting, and the prelude to Virgin Night, Fatima, and Black Moon which Husain painted in the 1960s, and the 'Mother Theresa' series that became one of his leitmotifs.
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