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LOT 35

Glaze of an Icon

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PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED COUPLE

Oil on canvas
1971
36 1/4 × 72 1/8 in. (92.3 × 183.3 cm.)

Signed in Devanagari and Urdu lower left and further signed, dated and inscribed ‘“GLAZE OF AN ICON” / P.B Husain / 1971’ on reverse

PROVENANCE:
Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai.

‘When we look at these creatures we must remember that the animal is not the subject of Husain’s painting, it is the demonic principle that he depicts which is neither good nor bad. The nudes and the horses and elephants have become symbols of power and pursuit, or of mysterious encounters. Of course, not all the paintings carry this message. But if the painting is structured rightly and if it holds our attention and if we can admire the method by which the parts have been put together, we need not worry about the implications. Paint does not lie. It is capable of revealing the prowess of the painter. If it does this, the painting holds, and what art we see will depend on the precise insights we have about art and on our ability to look squarely at things.’ (Richard Bartholomew, Husain, New York, 1971, p. 20)

Much has been written on M.F. Husain’s horses, his female figures, and the relationship between these two iconic subjects for the artist. The horse and nude, both, have fascinated Husain since the 1950s. The pictorial vocabulary of the horse has evolved through an amalgamation of several varied visual memories; from riding in his grandfather’s horse-drawn tonga as a child, to absorbing images of the stylised Duldul horse during annual Muharram processions in Indore, to the horse in Chinese painting and sculpture from his first visit to the country in 1952. The earliest nudes were often inspired by classical Indian sculpture, which he consistently studied through his career, be it at the exhibition in New Delhi he visited with F.N. Souza in 1948, or his visit to Khajuraho in the 1950s, or to the Government Museum in Chennai to admire the Chola bronzes in the 1970s.

Husain painted countless works of both these subjects independently, but it is the juxtaposition of these two themes, specifically, that Husain was especially interested in, and experimented with consistently through his career, each time achieving something different and revelatory. As Richard Bartholomew explains, ‘Perhaps the general inference is the same, yet each successful work is a different painting with a province of feeling determined by the construction, by the poetic premise of the composition. The subject may be the same, but the revelation is different each time.’ (ibid.) This concept was something he gleaned from the artist himself, who had answered Bartholomew’s specific questions by saying that when two images come together, they ‘act upon each other’ and release a unique energy in each painting.

The combined composition of human and animal forms is a powerful one, filled with energy, as seen in the current example. The elongated horizontal format, with both the legs of the horse and the woman suspended mid-air, suggest speed and movement; the horse charges forward, teeth bared, nostrils flaring, while the woman holds on to his muscular neck, placing full faith in his ability, her head turning back, perhaps to see what unfolds behind them. This particular horse and nude, physically intimate and emotionally connected, is also suggestive of the basic male- female union, where the virile, strong horse symbolises the male figure. ‘Husain’s horses become a vehicle for multiple utterances – aggression, power and protection... the brute strength of horses born and released from fabulous regions mutate in to thunderbolt, energies, phallic and omnipotent.’ (Roshan Shahani, Let History Cut Across Me Without Me, New Delhi, 1993, p. 8)

Spatially, Husain has balanced the figures perfectly, both lending equal gravitas to the overall coherence and composition. His choice of vigorous brushstrokes for the shaded grey background charges the entire picture plane with movement and energy, echoed in the short, spirited strokes used to paint the female figure. The horse, in comparison, stands out in bold, white impasto with strong black lines outlining his agile, sinewy form. Husain has introduced an interesting pictorial device by inserting a contrasting vertical panel of red that severs the flow of the figures and divides the space. The solid wall of red, distinctly different in paint application from the rest of the background, is plain except for the hind leg and torso of the horse that continues undisturbed through it. The effect is immediate and potent. The red electrifies and grounds the painting at the same time, reiterating the fact that Husain, even with his most comfortable subjects is unpredictable and disruptive in his thinking; creating compositions that throw up new inferences and abstract connotations.

Commenting on the relationship of the horse and nude, Geeta Kapur states, ‘Here is exploding energy in a flight across the picture plane. The image is formed by a powerful line-movement, by the vigorous brushstroke, often by the diagonal compositions holding the picture plane in tension. Poetically the horse is a solar symbol, leading the chariot of the sun-god across the blazing skies. This is the spirit of Husain’s horses, proud and dynamic, whichever context he may place them in. If there is a presence with them, a woman for example, they carry her with their own passion. 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.’ (Geeta Kapur, Husain, Sadanga Series for Vakils, Mumbai, p. 41)
Condition: The colours of the original are similar to the catalogue illustration. The painting has been recently cleaned and varnished. Two small square patches of repair visible on the reverse. When examined under UV light, a small Y-shaped area of re-touching is visible at the figure’s shoulder, which corresponds to the larger patch visible on the reverse and a smaller area corresponding to the smaller patch. Overall good condition.

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India, Mumbai
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[ translate ]

PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED COUPLE

Oil on canvas
1971
36 1/4 × 72 1/8 in. (92.3 × 183.3 cm.)

Signed in Devanagari and Urdu lower left and further signed, dated and inscribed ‘“GLAZE OF AN ICON” / P.B Husain / 1971’ on reverse

PROVENANCE:
Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai.

‘When we look at these creatures we must remember that the animal is not the subject of Husain’s painting, it is the demonic principle that he depicts which is neither good nor bad. The nudes and the horses and elephants have become symbols of power and pursuit, or of mysterious encounters. Of course, not all the paintings carry this message. But if the painting is structured rightly and if it holds our attention and if we can admire the method by which the parts have been put together, we need not worry about the implications. Paint does not lie. It is capable of revealing the prowess of the painter. If it does this, the painting holds, and what art we see will depend on the precise insights we have about art and on our ability to look squarely at things.’ (Richard Bartholomew, Husain, New York, 1971, p. 20)

Much has been written on M.F. Husain’s horses, his female figures, and the relationship between these two iconic subjects for the artist. The horse and nude, both, have fascinated Husain since the 1950s. The pictorial vocabulary of the horse has evolved through an amalgamation of several varied visual memories; from riding in his grandfather’s horse-drawn tonga as a child, to absorbing images of the stylised Duldul horse during annual Muharram processions in Indore, to the horse in Chinese painting and sculpture from his first visit to the country in 1952. The earliest nudes were often inspired by classical Indian sculpture, which he consistently studied through his career, be it at the exhibition in New Delhi he visited with F.N. Souza in 1948, or his visit to Khajuraho in the 1950s, or to the Government Museum in Chennai to admire the Chola bronzes in the 1970s.

Husain painted countless works of both these subjects independently, but it is the juxtaposition of these two themes, specifically, that Husain was especially interested in, and experimented with consistently through his career, each time achieving something different and revelatory. As Richard Bartholomew explains, ‘Perhaps the general inference is the same, yet each successful work is a different painting with a province of feeling determined by the construction, by the poetic premise of the composition. The subject may be the same, but the revelation is different each time.’ (ibid.) This concept was something he gleaned from the artist himself, who had answered Bartholomew’s specific questions by saying that when two images come together, they ‘act upon each other’ and release a unique energy in each painting.

The combined composition of human and animal forms is a powerful one, filled with energy, as seen in the current example. The elongated horizontal format, with both the legs of the horse and the woman suspended mid-air, suggest speed and movement; the horse charges forward, teeth bared, nostrils flaring, while the woman holds on to his muscular neck, placing full faith in his ability, her head turning back, perhaps to see what unfolds behind them. This particular horse and nude, physically intimate and emotionally connected, is also suggestive of the basic male- female union, where the virile, strong horse symbolises the male figure. ‘Husain’s horses become a vehicle for multiple utterances – aggression, power and protection... the brute strength of horses born and released from fabulous regions mutate in to thunderbolt, energies, phallic and omnipotent.’ (Roshan Shahani, Let History Cut Across Me Without Me, New Delhi, 1993, p. 8)

Spatially, Husain has balanced the figures perfectly, both lending equal gravitas to the overall coherence and composition. His choice of vigorous brushstrokes for the shaded grey background charges the entire picture plane with movement and energy, echoed in the short, spirited strokes used to paint the female figure. The horse, in comparison, stands out in bold, white impasto with strong black lines outlining his agile, sinewy form. Husain has introduced an interesting pictorial device by inserting a contrasting vertical panel of red that severs the flow of the figures and divides the space. The solid wall of red, distinctly different in paint application from the rest of the background, is plain except for the hind leg and torso of the horse that continues undisturbed through it. The effect is immediate and potent. The red electrifies and grounds the painting at the same time, reiterating the fact that Husain, even with his most comfortable subjects is unpredictable and disruptive in his thinking; creating compositions that throw up new inferences and abstract connotations.

Commenting on the relationship of the horse and nude, Geeta Kapur states, ‘Here is exploding energy in a flight across the picture plane. The image is formed by a powerful line-movement, by the vigorous brushstroke, often by the diagonal compositions holding the picture plane in tension. Poetically the horse is a solar symbol, leading the chariot of the sun-god across the blazing skies. This is the spirit of Husain’s horses, proud and dynamic, whichever context he may place them in. If there is a presence with them, a woman for example, they carry her with their own passion. 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.’ (Geeta Kapur, Husain, Sadanga Series for Vakils, Mumbai, p. 41)
Condition: The colours of the original are similar to the catalogue illustration. The painting has been recently cleaned and varnished. Two small square patches of repair visible on the reverse. When examined under UV light, a small Y-shaped area of re-touching is visible at the figure’s shoulder, which corresponds to the larger patch visible on the reverse and a smaller area corresponding to the smaller patch. Overall good condition.

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Sale price
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Estimate
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Reserve
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Time, Location
25 Apr 2024
India, Mumbai
Auction House
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