Property from a Private South American Collection

Maqbool Fida Husain


Auction Closed

October 26, 03:08 PM GMT


100,000 - 150,000 GBP

Lot Details


Property from a Private South American Collection

Maqbool Fida Husain

1913 - 2011


Oil on canvas

Signed in Devanagari and Urdu lower right

131.5 x 136.5 cm. (51 ¾ x 53 ⅝ in.)

Acquired directly from the artist, circa 1980s

Maqbool Fida Husain's first-hand encounters with the paintings of Paul Klee, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso during his travels to Europe in 1953 had a decisive impact on his art. His Indian sensibility merged with newly experienced aspects of European Modernism, forming a distinctive pictorial language. ‘His figures suddenly became anonymous. They existed on the picture plane without any specific locale or identity. They possessed a static poise, a slow langerous deliberateness. These directions were foreign to Husain’s personal attitudes, as revealed in his unfolding up till this point.’ (G. Kapur, Husain, Vakil & Sons Private Ltd., Bombay, p. 4) In the past, where his figures populated the spaces with rural village scenes in the background or detailed landscapes, these nameless women are archetypal figures in their own private world.

In this painting, the faces of the three women are hidden by verdant foliage. This amalgam of the female nude form with lush greenery recalls the shalabhanjikas or ancient fertility deities seen in the earliest art of India. These temple sculptures show women alongside and entwined with flowering trees, plants and creepers, symbolic of the fertility imbued in woman and the natural world. This reference to fertility and the manner in which leaves are used as silent masks upon the figures' faces, speak to one of Husain's most powerful themes: motherhood. This use of foliage is a novel rendition of the artist's faceless or veiled women that he frequently depicted. Burdened by the loss of his mother as a very small child, and his subsequent inability to recall her face, Husain’s treatment of women throughout his long career reveals a mixture of tenderness, nostalgia and reverence.

The colours divide the picture plane into areas of light and dark. Through this sense of alienation, the careful use of pigments and his deft, angular brushwork, Husain invokes a deep awareness of the human condition. Philosophical and impulsive, paintings such as the current lot are more about emotion and less to do with a particular subject.