PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE BADRIVISHAL PITTI
Oil on canvas
68 x 36 in. (172.5 x 91.6 cm.)
Signed in Devanagari and dated '2-10-76' lower right
Husain enjoyed painting famous personalities, be they actors, politicians, literary figures or musicians. Given his tendency to paint impulsively and quickly, his choice of subject was often determined by his immediate surroundings or to commemorate important occasions or days, lending his works an immediacy that is often beyond the purview of an artist's canvas.
As the nation celebrates the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the current work holds special significance. From the specific dating of the work, '2-10-76', it is clear that the artist intended it to be in honour of Gandhi's birthday that year. Husain was deeply committed to India's freedom struggle and had attended several rallies where Gandhi had spoken. He was inspired by his speeches, and had a deep, abiding respect for what Gandhi was trying to achieve, as seen from the numerous times he chose to depict the 'Father of the Nation' in his paintings.
Here, he has used a large, vertical canvas and a monochromatic palette to communicate the significance of the Gandhian path. Shown in his trademark simple, white loincloth, Gandhi holds a second cloth in his left hand, and his trusty staff is placed on his right. Even though he is not using it for support, Husain has placed it in the picture frame as emblematic of what it represents, as well as a pictorial device, standing strong and tall. Both the staff and Gandhi's body are completed in lighter tones of grey, emerging out of the dark canvas, symbolising Gandhi's attempts to lead the people into the light by choosing the path of ahimsa and satyagraha. The staff is ubiquitous with Gandhi, and it is the one element that appears in most artistic representations of the leader, ranging from Bapuji, Nandalal Bose's famous linocut, to Ramkinkar Baij's life-size sculptures and, of course, in other paintings of him created by Husain at various times. The current example has very defined facial features; the contemplative expression on Gandhi's face symbolic of the long and difficult path that he has chosen. In other works by Husain, the artist has consciously chosen to eliminate these details, thereby allowing Gandhi to transcend time and place, elevating him to the status of the divine.
Susan Bean states, 'In his drive to create an Indian contemporary art, M.F. Husain has become a master of myth, not only portraying deities and episodes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, but in projecting historical figures into the transcendent realm of the mythic. His "Gandhi" for example, shows his subject larger than life, wearing his signature loincloth and holding his staff, but with a featureless haloed visage that conveys no individual identity. In this painting we are looking at a person, a saint, a demigod who has surpassed history, whose significance is timeless...His "Mother Teresa" series similarly uses her distinctive habit and her hands to effect a transformation of the historical to the mythic, the mortal to the eternal.' (Susan Bean, 'Now, Then, Beyond: Time in India's Contemporary Art', Contemporary Indian Art: Other Realities, Mumbai, 2002, p. 48) For an example of a work depicting Mother Teresa, see lot 25.
The colours of the original are deeper and richer than the catalogue illustration.Scattered spots along the left, right and upper edges have been retouched, faintlyvisible under UV light. Overall good condition.
About The Artist:
MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1913-2011)