PROPERTY FROM THE FAMILY OF A RENOWNED MUMBAI ARCHITECT
Oil on canvas
78 7/8 x 35 3/4 in. (200.5 x 91 cm.)
Signed and dated in Devanagari and further signed in Urdu upper right
Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai.
Dr. Mulk Raj Anand, ed.,Husain, Sadanga Series for Vakils, Bombay, p. 35, illustrated.
Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni,Husain: Riding the Lightning, Mumbai, 1996, p. 4, illustrated.
Husain was deeply influenced by horses, and they resonated with him on both artistic and religious levels. The role of the animal in the story of the martyrdom of Imam Husain, and the well known story of Ashwamedha and the battle between the horses and ancient princes, combined with the Sung dynasty rendering of horses he saw during his visit to China in 1952 and Mario Marini's equestrian sculptures he saw on his visit to Europe in 1953, all contributed to his own intuitive visual expression of these powerful, graceful creatures.
The horse has evolved through an amalgamation of varied visual memories associated with classical and folk traditions. Of the inspiration for his horses, Husain had said, 'I have not seen these wild animals in the jungle. I have seen them imprisoned in stone on the walls of Khajuraho, Konark, Mahabalipuram - the temples of medieval India.' (K. Bikram Singh,Maqbool Fida Husain, New Delhi, 2008, p. 169) This statement is key to a fuller understanding of Husain's own depiction of horses, because the artist admits that his reference points are not live animals, but rather art-historical forerunners created in stone, bronze or clay. These sculptural reference points begin a process of abstraction and stylisation that the artist adapts further in each canvas to suit his own artistic concerns. The monumental sculptural quality of his reference material, however, never entirely fades from his new compositions in oil or acrylic.
Despite these various artistic reference points, Husain's horses evolve their own unique narrative. They exude life; they are dynamic beasts, creating a certain frenzied energy on the canvas, as seen in the current example of a single horse from 1966. The galloping creature has been captured in mid-flight, the thundering hooves suspended mid-air as he rears his head; the accompanying whinny almost audible. Husain has used a monochromatic palette to great effect. The background, executed in large sweeps of grey, provides the perfect backdrop to the darker subject. For the animal itself, he has balanced areas of grey and black by layering thin layers of paint, almost akin to the handling of watercolour. The uninhibited brushstrokes are short and vigorous, lending a vitality and energy to the animal. In contrast to the dark belly and torso, the powerful neck of the animal seems to merge into the background, delineated by a simple black line on one side and the thick, dark mane on the other. This deliberate choice of colour placement, progressively rising from a darker, more dense ground to lighter, blank areas liberates the painting, and by extension the animal, infusing it with lightness and movement and creating a charged atmosphere that ignites the painting with an almost electric energy.
Husain would often add pictorial elements to his compositions in order for them to be better balanced. Here, he has extended the thin line demarcating the animal's neck past his head, piercing the blank areas of light grey in the upper third of the canvas. It serves the dual purpose of centering the horse and provides a link between the animal and the background. Geeta Kapur, in her analysis of Husain's works from this period offers an insightful observation with reference to lines such as these. 'The image is formed by a powerful line-movement, by the vigorous brushstroke, often by the diagonal compositions holding the picture plane in tension. ... If they are alone they turn the picture plane to a vast expanse of sky or desert, the sun rolling beside their stamping hoofs. For Husain, the horse seems to stand for super-human forces, powerful not only for its stampeding arrogance, but because of its greater sophistication. Only sometimes, with a surcharged confidence in man, a hand held aloft or a suggestive lance, matches or halts its force.' (Geeta Kapur, Husain, Sadanga Series for Vakils, Bombay, p. 41) The line in the current composition may well take on this additional role.
About The Artist:
MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1913-2011)