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MF Husain's 'Bhopal' up for auction in UK

Press Trust of India
Sep 20, 2013 at 12:44pm IST

Legendary artist MF Husain's landmark painting 'Bhopal', which depicts the horrors of the 1984 gas leak tragedy in the Indian city, is set to be auctioned in London, with a pre-sale estimate of up to 300,000 pounds.

Auctioneer Bonhams will sell the painting along with pioneering artwork by Indian master artists such as Sayed Haider Raza and Francis Newton Souza, during the October 8 Indian and Islamic Art Sale at London's New Bond Street.

The oil on canvas painting framed and signed by Husain strongly echoes Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica', and is estimated at a value of 200,000-300,000 pounds, Bonhams said.

MF Husain's 'Bhopal' up for auction in UK

MF Husain's 'Bhopal' up for auction in UK

In 1984, Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, experienced one of the worst gas leaks in world history, killing thousands of people.

Just as Picasso's passion and outrage towards the Spanish Civil War had inspired him to create 'Guernica' (1937), 'Bhopal' was the result of Husain's horror at the long-lasting effects of the leak, considered one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

Husain's artistic response might have been influenced by Picasso's, but his artwork was first and foremost inspired by his surroundings.

"The subject might be macabre, but that's what makes it a landmark work. Husain paints with bright colours to give the grim reality of destruction power and a flicker of light," Nour Aslam, Head of Modern and Contemporary South Asian and Middle Eastern Art, said.

Along with Bhopal, 'Bindu', by Sayed Haider Raza is the second highest valued item on sale.

This framed acrylic on canvas painting is expected to fetch between 100,000 and 150,000 pounds.

Raza began the 'Bindu' series in the late 1980s.

Every part of the painting has its own meaning: Every colour, shape, and design symbolises a different emotion and a different theology.

For Raza, the division of the canvas is an act of meditation, and the 'Bindu' is the centre of calm.

'Untitled' by Indian artist Francis Newton Souza is another highlight of the auction.

The painting is framed and mounted, and estimated at a value of 40,000-60,000 pounds.

The appeal of 'Untitled' comes from Souza's unusual 'cake-like' method of painting and his use of rich colours.

Another highlight of the auction is 'Four Figures' by Pakistani artist Sadequain.

This framed oil on canvas is signed, dated, and titled, and estimated at a value of 45,000-65,000 pounds.

'Four Figures' also has an affinity with Western painting.

In Paris, Sadequain blended the methods that he had learned in Pakistan with Parisian styles and techniques: He combined the methods of Calligraphy, Cubism, and Surrealism.

"'Four Figures' is the perfect example of how Sadequain was a most discerning rule-breaker. It seems that the majority of the Indian and Islamic artworks up for auction refused to follow the rules," Nour Aslam said.

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