Signed 'Husain' (upper right)
Further signed, titled, and inscribed 'Husain / "Three Women"/ 42 x 33' (on the reverse)
Art Heritage Gallery, New Delhi
Private collection, Dubai
The portrayal of the feminine is an integral part of M.F. Husain's compositions. His female figures, often influenced by classical Indian sculptures, possess the artist's instantly recognizable, angular lines. "It is a point worth noting that Husain's women, far from arousing passion, are ascetic...It is almost as if he strips the sculptures of all exterior embellishments to arrive at their basic sense of movement. Husain's women are always enshrouded in an invisible veil, the simplicity of their form countered by their inaccessibility." (Yashodhara Dalmia, "A Metaphor for Modernity," The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2001, pg. 110 - 111)
This longstanding preoccupation with the female figure as an artistic theme is shown evidently in the current painting. As observed in most of Husain's works, his characters are often rooted in their environment: inhabiting rural scenes or detailed landscapes. However, in this picture, the women are defined not by their environs but by their apparent connection with each other, portrayed as archetypal figures caught in a seemingly private moment. Husain casts them amid a reaction, their gaping mouths and gesturing hand emphasizing their emotion, tying in the image and linking the characters in suspended communication. The bodies of the two women on the left merge into one another, almost forming a single entity.
Across the canvas, Husain applied paint in a gestural manner using expressive brushstrokes, the outline of the figures thick and deliberate, reminiscent of his early and mid-career works. While he is often known for bright jewelled colours, he sometimes favoured an earthier muted palette, connecting to the aesthetics of folk art, as in this work. The artist used vibrant hues and tones of ochre, orange, brown, and burgundy, reminiscent of Byzantine religious icons, to give these figures a sense of gravitas and solidity. He also employs the colours to divide the picture plane into areas of light and dark while delineating the faces of these characters, obscuring their eyes in shadows while removing any indication of depth or perspective of space in the background. The overall effect evokes mystery and contemplation, revealing a preoccupation with human sentiments and conditions rather than a particular subject.