Maqbool Fida Husain and his best metaphors for Indian contemporary art
Indian painting and the contemporary modern art vista has become prosperous and varied since the early nineteenth century. One of the most prominent artists who took a revolutionary step in moving from the precise depictions of reality to the endless potential of modern art is Maqbool Fida Husain. Husain is a man who delivers the common man from the ordinariness of his existence to the international arena. He involves with the formulation of modernity and with its rooted ness in India. 1 A fellow artist, K.B. Goel, rightly quotes “Husain is the most authentic Indian variety of modernism”. 2 Maqbool Fida Husain was born in 1915 and spent his childhood in the central Indian town of Indore. Husain received no formal training in art and was largely self-taught. In his teens he moved to the major cultural and commercial centre of India, the metropolitan city of Bombay and began his artistic career as an apprentice to a billboard painter. Thus the obtuse vigor of extra-large advertising art portraying the dubious, larger-than-life, glamorous world of film images made its impression on the artist’s mind at a very early and fundamental stage of his career. Here he also studied at the J.J. School of Art for a short period of time. His early work is defined by the rural idyll being both complex and ingenious. Paintings like Marathi women, Balaram Street, Mother and child and Women at Work show robust mothers with children, women drawing water and peasant figures involved in their work with a certain air of severe poise. Derived from the Basholi or Mewar paintings these works are mainly created in earthy yellow, oranges, browns and are rich of textures. Husain's work came into public notice in the year 1947 when his 1 2
Dalmia, Yashodhara. The Making of Modern Indian Art - the Progressives.(New Delhi: Oxford UP, 2001)101
Tuli, Neville. Indian Contemporary Painting. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.,1997) 37
painting The Potter won an award at the annual exhibition of the Bombay Art Society. The painting shows two potters at work on their wheels, and its juxtaposition of objects brings about a strange sense of dislocation. 3 Impressed with Husain’s originality and creative vision Francis Newton Souzah invited him to join the Progressive Artists’ Group, a group formed to explore a new idiom for Indian Art. This was a faction of young artists who wished to break with the nationalist traditions established by the Bengal School of Art and to encourage an Indian avant-garde, engaged at an international level. Through it, Husain was exposed to the Expressionist painters Emil Nolde and Oskar Kokoschka whose influence can be seen in his masterly paintings like Between the Spider and The Lamp (fig.1), Zameen and Man (fig.2). A major stimulus in Husain’s career was provided by his encounter with ancient Mathura sculpture and Indian miniature paintings in Delhi which helped him incorporate ideas from Western and Indian art. From 1948 to 1950 a series of exhibitions all over India brought Husain's work to the notice of the public and he became famous as an artist of modern India. His Retrospective, 1945-69, at the Gallery Chemould, revealed his vast range of imagery and the rare spontaneous energy of his creativity. 4 During the next few years Husain marched towards modernity and expressed his obligation towards the nation through his paintings. The best known of these are Zameen(fig.3) and A Farmer’s Family which suggest the mythological as well as factual feature of Indian nation in a symbolic form. The simple colors and traditional bearing discards the works of all feelings and inculcates a silent seriousness within them. In one of his interviews about Zameen he states “In this painting I brought the village life
Dalmia, Yashodhara. The Making of Modern Indian Art - the Progressives. (New Delhi: Oxford UP, 2001) 102
Tuli, Neville. Indian Contemporary...
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