M. F. Husain (India)
1915 - 2011
Astaguru Auction House.
Property from a private collection based in mumbai .
Originally fom chester and davida Herwitz Collection.
Mother Teresa in Benevolence Diptych
Acrylic on Canvas
30 x 47.6 Inches
Engendering the Art
"The eight decade, the decade of the eternal mother, her white sari, lights up the unlit lanes of Calcutta. I paint and unfold several layers of her sari, In search of my lost mother. Sometimes her trembling hand, Appears from the bodiless bundle of cloth To touch her fugitive son."
“All through my life, I have sought one image-the image of my mother whom I never saw. Whenever I painted women who personified her there were no faces-only the outline; you saw in Mother Teresa; in Madhuri; in Madonna; in Saraswati; in Mohini.”
The venerated figure of Mother Teresa appeared one of the first times in the art of Maqbool Fida Husain in 1980 with the painting BENEVOLENCE purchased by Founders Abeer and Aashna Abrol in 2020 after it was put up for auction at a Mumbai- based auction house.
Husain had seen Mother Teresa in Calcutta on one of his visits to the city in the ’70s and he was mesmerised by her and what she represented to him at the time: the eternal spirit of motherhood. He would make sketches of her with her face and realised that though she was timelessly beautiful the image did not reveal her spirit and essence. It would take him another decade before he created the Mother Teresa series with a faceless Mother Teresa wearing a sari which he would emphasize and paint in textured multi-layers.
The painting BENEVOLENCE was completed in 1980. It is acrylic in canvas and is made as a two-part canvas joined at the centre. In his inimitable style of bold colours and powerful brushstrokes and contrast, Husain created the now timeless series of Mother Teresa paintings.
Husain depicts Mother Teresa seated though he does not outline her pose. The gesture of her body gives the feeling that she is seated. Here he references 15th-century Italian preoccupation with realism in the representation of drapery and the folds of ecclesiastical robes in these works making it a departure from previous paintings of women. Husain repeatedly borrows elements from Renaissance painting and sculpture in the Mother Teresa series compositions.
In the painting BENEVOLENCE, he also references the Christian subject of La Pieta: “Pietà is one of the three common artistic representations of a sorrowful Virgin Mary, the other two being Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows) and Stabat Mater (here stands the mother).
In BENEVOLENCE, Mother Teresa is depicted in three positions giving the aura of movement in three different postures. Husain utilises the form of La Pieta in the poses and though her lower body is not outlined the body language suggests her being seated...
Having her image depicted three times could be interpreted again on the Christian form of the Holy Trinity sign of the cross.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Biblical reference symbolizing her personifying the holy father, son and holy spirit... Husain embodies her as the holy spirit of God as she reaches out to help the pregnant woman in the painting. Again, Husain’s fascination and study of Hindu mythology can be seen as Mother Teresa offers her robes to the bewildered pregnant woman who is nude except a cloth covering her private parts. A suggestion to the Ramayana and the story of Draupadi. Draupadi prays to Lord Krishna to protect her. As Dushasana unwraps layers and layers of her sari, it keeps getting extended. Finally, a tired Dushasana backs off without being able to remove her clothing.
In BENEVOLENCE Mother Teresa seems to be extending an endless saree to the pregnant woman.
The true genius and greatness of the artist are revealed. Though Husain was a Muslim, as an artist he believed in the spirit of Godliness which knows no religion and often the boundaries defined by religion were eliminated in his works to create the composition of universality through the mind of the artist. His everlasting paintings will live forever even if he did not live; in death, his great works remind us of an artist who looked at the world as a common union of people of different cultures and religion and a world with empathy and sensitivity.
Since then the numerous canvases dedicated to the subject of Mother Teresa stand as testimony to the profound impact the saint had on the artist’s life and work.