Maqbool Fida Husain, ‘Untitled’, Christie's South Asian + Chinese

[...] in his painting of the solitary Musician a sense of contained rhythm is achieved in the vibrant coloring of the motif itself. (R. Bartholomew & S. Kapur, Maqbool Fida Husain, New York, 1972, p. 42)

From the 1960s, Husain painted several works that combined two of his favorite themes: music and the female form, experimenting between grouped and single figures at the heart of his compositions. In this example Husain flattens and fractures the female form alluding to European Modernism whilst simultaneously infusing the composition with a lyrical sense with rhythmic energy. "Husain's women, far from arousing passion, are ascetic without any of the abundant sexuality found in Indian sculptures. It is almost as if he strips the sculptures of all exterior embellishments to arrive at their basic sense of movement." (Y. Dalmia, The Making of Modern Art, The Progressives, New Delhi, 2001, p. 111)

This female musician, far from being a manifestation of feminine sensuality, is instead an homage to sculptural tradition. Husain like the stance of this melodious woman would overtly oscillate between one direction and the other as he referenced the classical sculpture of East and West. He pays homage to Indian classical sculpture in the traditional Tribhanga pose of the woman. In this classical stance of Tribhanga (three bends) common in temple sculpture, a figure is portrayed in three broken movements. Husain noted that it was not only this representation in sculpture that was particular but that, "in the East the human form is an entirely different structure [...] the way a woman walks in the village there are three breaks [...] from the feet, the hips and the shoulder [...] they move in rhythm, the walk of a European is erect and archaic." (P. Nandy, The Illustrated Weekly of India, December 4 - 10, 1983)

Image rights: [Christie's](

Mystical Fabled Husain', Incredible India, New Delhi, September - October 2003, p. 39 (illustrated)

Y. Dalmia, MF Husain: A Tribute, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2012, p. 41 (illustrated)

About Maqbool Fida Husain

A controversial artist known for narrative paintings done in a flat, Cubist style, Maqbool Fida Husain is regarded by some as the Picasso of India. A member of the Bombay Progressive Arts Group, Husain sought to create a modern Indian art form for the newly freed nation of India. Threatened and criticized by Hindu nationalist groups for his treatment of such sensitive subject matter as nude Hindu goddesses, the artist entered into a self-imposed exile. Self-taught, he painted Indian themes in the style of contemporary European artists, most notably Paul Klee. Husain’s depictions of historic figures, rural and urban Indian life, and religious iconography grew increasingly experimental over his lifetime, culminating with an unfinished series of triptychs, “Indian Civilization,” which pays tribute to Indian history and reveals Husain’s own personal mythology.

Indian, 1915-2011, Pandharpur, India, based in London, United Kingdom