LOT NO.
32

Maqbool Fida Husain

A Magician Dangles the Fortune Bird in a Cage
oil on canvas
72 x 90 in. (182.9 x 228.6 cm.)
painted in 2005
Bought-In
Estimate: US$ 200,000 - 300,000
Lot Closed

Lot Details

Signed and dated 'Husain 2005' (lower left)

PROVENANCE
Acquired directly from the artist

EXHIBITED AND PUBLISHED
’The Lost Continent’, The Arts House, Old Parliament
Building, Singapore, October, 2005
‘The Lost Continent’, The Gamble Room, Victoria and
Albert Museum, London, July, 2005

M.F Husain: The Lost Continent, Exhibition catalogue, UBS and Galerie 88, 2005

"Where the beauty and the beast has no quarrel.
Where arms gave you the direction to heaven, and not hell.
Where evil was filtered at the first entry point.
Where people breathed the rare oxygen of love.
Where hatred and lies had been scissored from our genes.
Take me, my Lord, into that lost continent. "

-Lost Continent, MF Husain, 2005

At the last years of his creativity, MF Husain, age 95 was India's best known painter. During his long prolific career as an artist, he was witness as history unfolds; from the great wars being fought, through genocides and holocaust, the partition and the unfurling of his nation from the British Raj to modern India. He witnessed deprivation, violence and rapid deterioration of human values across the world. In pursuing the theme, he dedicated his art to express the great loss he called, "The Lost Continent" which he made into a 21-part series chronicling his thoughts about lost human values.

In the painting where a magician dangles the fortune bird in a cage, "the bird is surrounded by a mosaic of riotous colour. The bird is held by the stark blue hands of a magician, who is covered in a white cloth and slowly considering his next move. The composition lures viewers into a terrain where play and uncertainty coexist."1 The title suggests a magician dangling the bird in a cage, just like in the popular magic trick; but behind the act is the magician knowing the true nature of the trick, concealed by the sleight of hand. Concurrently referencing Mahabharata, the blue hands signify Lord Krishna as he oversee the fate of the world. Starting from the game of dice, a key incident in the great epic, deceit had been a powerful driving force that ultimately led to the cosmic war from which the order of the universe was achieved. He orchestrated the war and change the whole course of the epic in ways more than one. Despite knowing the outcome, Lord Krishna let the events unfold and ensured that everyone answers to the laws of karma. Through the act of deception, he restore dharma into the world.

The immense narrative and pivotal personas that Husain picked from the epics convey deep meaning more than the explicit imagery. His symbolic images are introduced naturally in continual juxtaposition and serves as the foundation of his work. Husain used strong even coarse lines of Jain miniature painting to express energy and movement and sharp colors in basic simple design within strong broad border as influenced by the Basholi period. The demotic stylistics, the use of symbol, folk elements, and vibrant colors have come to characterize Husain's signature style.

1 Hwee Koon, MF Husain: The Lost Continent

Maqbool Fida Husain

(1915 - 2011)
Born in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, in 1913, Husain moved to Mumbai in 1937 where he sustained himself by painting cinema hoardings and designing furniture and toys. A self-taught artist, Husain was invited to join the Progressive Artists Group in 1947 by F.N. Souza after his first public exhibition of paintings. Most recently, his work has been featured in solo shows including ‘M.F. Husain: Early Masterpieces 1950s-1970s at the David Winton Bell Gallery, Providence in 2010; ‘Epic India’ at the peabody Essex Museum, Salem, in 2006-07; and ‘Early Masterpieces 1950-70s, at Asia House Gallery, London, in 2006. Husain was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, India’s Upper House of Parliament in 1986-92, during which he pictorially recorded its events, which were then published in 1994. The Government of India awarded him with a Padma Shri in 1966, a Padma Bhushan in 1973 and Padma Vibhushan in 1991, all high civilian honours. In 1971, Husain was invited to exhibit as a special invitee with Pablo Picasso at the Sao Paulo Biennale, Brazil. In 2004, he was awarded the Lalit Kala Ratna by the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. Husian passed away in London in 2011.