3 Ms (MAD ONNA, MOTHER TERESA, MAD HURI)
3 Ms (MAD ONNA, MOTHER TERESA, MAD HURI)
PROPERTY FROM A MEMBER OF THE ARTIST'S FAMILY
Acrylic on canvas
81 7/8 x 176 1/4 in. (208 x 447 cm.); triptych, each panel 81 7/8 x 58 3/4 in. (208 x 149 cm.)
Signed and dated 'Husain / '25 /II / 97' and further signed in Telugu upper right
'No idea how my mother "Zainab" looked like. She must be a Maharashtrian beauty from Pandharpur, clad in a nine yard sari, a gold plated ring dangling under her nose tip like tinkering temple bells of "Vithoba". I may have been a year and half when my mother bid farewell to this planet. She refused to get herself photographed.'
(M.F. Husain, Story of a Brush, Mumbai, 1983, unpaginated)
Losing his mother before he was two years old left an enormous vacuum in Husain's life. He had only experienced her love and warmth for about eighteen months, but he had no visual recollection, nor reference to remember her by. His mother's absence in his childhood years, and the inevitable loss of love and nurturing that resulted, remained a powerful consideration throughout his life. In many ways, the current work titled 3 Ms, can be understood as the artist's tribute to motherhood.
Since his childhood, Husain was fascinated with cinema. He used every means, fair or foul to go to the movies in Indore; an endeavour his family did not encourage. He would secretly make drawings of his favourite heroes and heroines and quickly destroy the evidence. Later in life, he would acknowledge that he felt painting was very limiting, and it was, in fact, cinema that was the most complete art form. In his early years in Mumbai, Husain would supplement his meagre earning from painting cinema hoardings by offering to paint portraits for traders at Lohar Chawl. Each afternoon he would go door to door, either delivering paintings or hoping to receive commissions.
Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, better known as Mother Teresa, founded the Missionaries of Charity for the terminally ill, downtrodden and orphans in Kolkata in 1950. At the same time, she replaced her traditional Loreto habit with a simple white cotton sari with a blue border. Husain had heard of the good work being done by Mother Teresa through his friends, the Kumars, in Kolkata, though they had never met. The news of Mother Teresa receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 prompted Husain to seek an appointment with the missionary. The few minutes he spent with her left a strong, residual impact. In her, resonated the universal mother. Husain promptly drew a portrait of her and presented it to her. That was probably the last time he ever drew her face. By early 1980, Husain was ready with a large body of works comprising five canvases and a series of watercolours that paid tribute to Mother Teresa. He now very effectively represented her with no defined facial features. Her trademark white sari with its blue border and weathered, larger than life, frail hands that compassionately embraced the sick, were all he needed. For a moment, Husain felt that he had encountered his own mother.
Husain kept himself abreast with Hollywood and Bollywood cinema, though he was selective about which directors he followed. On a chance encounter, he went to see Hum Aapke Hain Kaun in 1994. While he was not too impressed with the movie, he was bowled over by Madhuri Dixit's performance. He found that her body structure and movements echoed what he had closely studied in classical Indian sculpture. In his mind, he visualised a classical temple Devdasi, who personified the essence of the Indian woman. As he had done after meeting Mother Teresa, he painted a large body of work representing Madhuri in various moods and poses, admitting shamelessly that he was 'Mad about Madhuri'. Concurrently, unbeknownst to all, Husain was also creating story boards for Gaja Gamini, a feature film he went on to direct in 1998 with Madhuri as the central figure, embodying the vast, multiple layers of the Indian Woman.
Husain was also hugely impressed with the performance of Madonna in the film Evita, which depicted the life of Eva Peron, the First Lady of Argentina. The film detailed her beginnings, rise to fame and political career, and untimely death at the age of thirty-three. Eva Peron was known as the Spiritual Leader of Argentina and Husain felt that Madonna had played the role of Eva Peron to perfection.
The current painting was executed soon after the release of the movie, incorporating Madonna as the third complementary 'M' to Mother Teresa and Madhuri Dixit. The artist intentionally hyphenates the names as a pun on his obsession. This work was exhibited at the opening of Cinema Ghar, a museum for Art and Cinema, inaugurated in Hyderabad in 2002, where is occupied pride of place.
About The Artist:
MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1913-2011)