ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 15 – Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium – 13-17 June 2019

M.F. Husain (1915-2011) – Untitled – 2005 – 36 x 24 in. (91.4 x 61 cm.) – acrylic on canvas – Lot 15

“My subject is woman”, M.F. Husain once stated. Women of all sort – rural and urban, anonymous and famous, mortal and divine– have been his subject from the very start of his career as an artist. 

Husain’s interest in the female figure and posture led to his involvement with the subject and a personal idiom that emphasized on the form and not on the emotions evoked. In order to do this, he depersonalized his women and rendered them faceless; with few exceptions including the current image. Here, the titular woman appears with a clearly delineated face; although half of it is partially covered with the canopy of hair. She is placed in an undefined setting completely liberated from the confinement of any social or ethnic references. The shadows around her play an important role in defining and outlining her figure. 

As an artist, Husain had a keen interest in the erotic but usually avoided frontal nudity in his work. He deliberately emphasized the erotic aspect of the female form as an epitome of sensuality and beauty, yet none of this was explicitly and directly explored. Instead, he juxtaposed the female figure with folk elements and symbols –of which India has an abundance of– such as lamps, spokes, and spiders. In this case, a snake around the woman’s neck alludes to male energy and virility.

Auction Catalogue – South Asian Art – ‘Modern and Contemporary – 13-17 June 2019

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