Signed and dated 'Husain 2005' (lower right)
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
Maqbool Fida Husain was born in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, on September 17, 1915. He moved to Madhya Pradesh and spent much of his growing years in the city of Indore. Husain lived to be one of the most admired painters in the history of contemporary India – also, one of the most controversial – and earned enormous international fame for his works.
Francis Newton Souza, in 1947, had invited Husain to join the Progressive Artists’ Group. The organisation that celebrated modernism and encouraged a deviation from traditional styles of painting. This invitation was a recognition of Husain's personal idiom, his appreciation of contemporary art and eagerness to not be situated in traditional moulds, however old and pervasive they may be. In subsequent years, Husain’s professional life accompanied crucial events that were unfolding across the world. The stark deterioration of human values he witnessed in this period stirred and saddened him and he expressed these sentiments in the famous 21-part series of paintings, called 'The Lost Continent'.
'The Last Supper' is the pivotal feature of The Lost Continent series. Painted in July 2005 in London, the series offers a peak into Husain’s sense of humanity and moral values. It sold for $2 million in 2005 and, at the time, bore the record of the highest sum ever paid for a work of modern art from India.
Christ sits by a table, haloed, with a book open before him. His torso is shaped in the form of a dove. The table, roughly cut is lifted at one end by the devil and by an angel at the other. A woman, garbed in robes and wearing a head gear, cups a candle in her palms. She is seen standing by Christ, on his left-hand side; on his right is an elderly bearded man and an imposing frame of an African lady. The fulcrum of this entire scene is an empty bowl at the centre of the table. The bowl signifies famine and the arresting presence of Africa, a region languishing in hunger and starvation, and serves as the artist’s statement on the global politics surrounding food. Husain had also commented at one point that “the empty bowl signifies betrayal”.
Through a career that spanned decades, Husain has become a name that is both celebrated and authoritative in Indian art. He was a witness to a tumultuous period in human history where human values were in rapid deterioration across the world. His art mirrored his sense of the times and the loss he felt spilt out into The Lost Continent series. A colourful yet profound expression of an iconic Biblical scene, The Last Supper is one of the most unique offerings in the series. It was conceived after several years of search and dedication towards a telling idea: “the agony of a performer and the pain of the spectator”. The painting premiered in the Gamble Room of The Victoria and Albert Museum in London and exhibited in other august venues, serves as a statement of Husain’s aesthetic regarding loss and the human condition.