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Lot Details

Signed in Bengali and English 'Husain' (lower right)

Property of an esteemed art collector
Artiana / Sale 1801 / Lot 39 / South Asian Art - Classical, Modern and Contemporary / Dubai / 10 - 14 May 2018
Private collection, Dubai

"The eight decade, the decade of eternal mother,
Her white sari, lights up the unlit lanes of Calcutta.
I paint and unfold several layers of her sari,
In search of my lost mother.
Sometimes her trembling hand,
Appears from the bodyless bundle of cloth
To touch her fugitive son."

- M.F. Husain

"Husain had seen Mother Teresa in Calcutta in one of her visits while she was comforting sick children and old destitute people by holding their hands and praying for them. Husain, so moved by her presence, resolved to make a portrait of her that very day despite knowing it would need a lot of study. For him, her personality, presence and work are so great that he cannot depict it all in realistic form. Husain was attracted by Mother Teresa as a living personification of his own mother and the very idea of motherhood. She had a sculptural presence and Husain saw in her the artist's concept of motherhood hallowed both in Indian and western art.

Besides, she had the aura of an evolved spiritual person and, therefore, the spiritual dimension of Mother Teresa was as important to him as an artist, as her more obvious manifestation of motherhood. Looking at her, he had instinctively realized that a realistic approach to portray the Mother would not succeed in capturing her presence or her spiritual dimension. And yet, curiously, his search for the right form began with the creation of a few almost realistic sketches.

Husain did pen & ink sketches of Mother Teresa, with her wrinkled, peasant face and hand sharply etched in strong lines. creating a feeling of profound gentleness and compassion. However, there is no presence of her spiritual aura in the sketches that he was trying to capture. In another ink drawing, her hand is no longer a part of the portrait. Instead, the border of her sari frames her face. It is this border that points to the direction in which Husain was seeking a solution to the artistic problem of going beyond realism and creating an abstract metaphor that would evoke both her person and the spiritual aura surrounding her. He then takes a huge step when in another sketch of 1979, he removed the face of the Mother from the portrait and concentrated on her all-enfolding robe, therefore solving the problem he was facing. He added figures of children as it was a part of her persona. Yet, the results are quite not satisfactory so he studied the treatment of saints in the pre-Renaissance paintings of Italy. He found the robe of 'The Missionaries of Charity' founded by Mother Teresa, a white, thick cotton sari with a broad blue border which he later on converted into a metaphor of her. To accentuate the abstract dimension of the robe, he completely removed the face from his portraits. He incorporated images of emaciated children and dying men and women who were the prime objects of Mother Teresa's boundless love.

In the process, his images of Mother Teresa did not remain only abstract portraits but acquired the elements of a biography. These pictorial elements became the core of the numerous images of her that Husain was to create over the next two and a half decades." [...] (K. Bikram Singh, Maqbool Fida Husain, Rahul & Art, New Delhi, 2008, p. 229-231)

Maqbool Fida Husain

(1915 - 2011)
Born in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, in 1915, 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.