Signed 'Husain' twice (upper right and on the reverse)
Saffronart / Lot 72 / Summer Online Auction / Modern and Contemporary Indian Art / 16 - 17 June 2010
Acquired from the above by the present owner
The equine figure is an integral part of M.F. Husain's huge body of work, his fixation with the subject started as a young boy watching the tazias on the annual Muharram procession and would continue throughout his entire career; amalgamating various influences into a composite form to come up with a style that is uniquely his own. Arguably one of his most important motifs, the horses have become a pivotal part of Husain's oeuvre since he first embarked on the subject in 1951.
In this large work, the bodies of eight bucking and rearing horses are dramatically intertwined against a deep crimson red backdrop, breaking free of the symbolic frame they are in. They are shown in frenzy, galloping towards the setting sun, half-visible on the right. Husain's use of vibrant primary colors and strong lines lend his horses a raw and potent presence that reflects movement and gives the overall composition a dynamic quality.
Much like his other works, Husain relies heavily on symbolism to accentuate this composition. Here, he evokes the iconography of Surya or the Sun God which is often depicted riding a chariot pulled by seven horses that represents the seven colors of visible light and the seven days of the week. The dominating color red in the current picture is also attributed to him. In medieval Hinduism, Surya is also an epithet for the major Hindu Gods - Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu.
In adding the eighth horse, Husain took some creative license from the usual portrayal of the anthropomorphic Sun God. Supposedly, this is a nod to ancient China, a source of inspiration for his rendering of horses, and a civilization where both the number eight and the horse were regarded as signs of luck and harmony. Another ancient Indian belief associated with the eighth white horse is that Kalki, the forthcoming avatar of Vishnu, is meant to arrive riding a white horse at the very end of time.
Husain's horses whether it be a single monumental creature or in a group in a carefully composed picture, evoke a multitude of meanings and serves as an archetype that represents a plethora of cultural and art historical influences that have shaped and informed Husain’s unique artistic vocabulary. "Altogether, the horse paintings of Husain done over several decades represent some of his finest works and demonstrate the power of his draftsmanship, his deep understanding of the myths associated with the horse in the multi-faceted Indian artistic and cultural tradition, and his talent to invest them with a new contemporary meaning[...] (K. Bikram Singh, Maqbool Fida Husain, New Delhi, 2008, p. 169 & 192)