Signed and dated 'Husain / 20-3-90' (lower left)
Private collection, Dubai
(A Certificate of Authenticity signed by the artist, and a photograph of the artist signing the certificate for the present owner accompanies the lot.)
Mother Teresa first appeared in M.F. Husain's canvas in 1980 after she consecutively received the Noble Peace Prize in 1979 and the Bharat Ratna, India's most prestigious award for national service, in 1980. Since then, the numerous canvases dedicated to her stand as testimony to Husain's fascination with her powerful public image, persona, and her profound impact on the artist's life and work. Husain referred to her as an 'eternal figure' and a modern Madonna, her image inspiring a series of famous paintings and remaining as one of the recurring tropes in Husain's works through the years.
As an Indian icon, Mother Teresa appealed to Husain's sensibilities as an artist, not only for her work with the poor but also for what the religious figure signifies, a notion of a mother. The artist, whose mother passed away during his childhood, associated the saint as a living personification of his own mother and the very idea of motherhood in general.
Seen here as a faceless entity, Husain's Mother Teresa is in the typical posture of La Pieta - an image that haunted the artist long after he saw its original in Italy, and later used in various representations of the revered Mother. Husain completely removed any facial features from the portrait and instead depicted the icon in outline, almost imperceptible if not for the robes she donned, a white sari with a broad blue border, accentuating the abstract figure and implying a sense of corporeality in an otherwise abstracted figuration.
Although the inside of the robes that hold her presence is shown hollow, disembodied and gesturing hands are depicted purportedly ready to reach out to help the destitute into her folds. Wittingly, the garb which Husain highlighted in his interpretations of the subject serves as an apt, albeit abstract metaphor that effectively evokes both the person and the symbolism that she inspires.
The artist states “I have tried to capture in my paintings what her presence meant to the destitute and the dying, the light and hope she brought by mere inquiry, by putting her hand over a child abandoned in the street. I did not cry at this encounter. I returned with so much strength and sadness that it continues to ferment within." (Artist statement, Y. Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, New York, 2001, p. 116)