Undoubtedly, one of India's, and perhaps the world's leading contemporary artists, Hussain's work for Air-India must have been treasured by the airline. Very similar objects as in the poster were used to design the Air-India timetable of April 1963. This was almost 7-8 years after the poster was printed. So, it would be an understatement to say that I was bemused when I saw what they did to the artist's work in the timetable. One of the characters the artist painted, the drummer, has had his head replaced with that of the Maharajah!
I am still in shock, and all I can say is that no one but the Maharajah would have the courage to do something like this. There is one part in me that wants to smile broadly at his gall in pulling this perhaps innocent prank; and another part that is absolutely horrified at how such a liberty could be taken with the master's work.
Judge for yourself, but do remember: he is our Maharajah and all his indiscretions are forgiven.
Top left: The mid-1950s Air-India International travel poster with puppet like cut-outs by M. F. Hussain. Catalogue # 28, size 72 x 101 cms.
Top right: The April 1963 airline timetable with similar characters, but the drummer's head has been replaced with that of our Maharajah.
She has also carefully preserved some examples of her work and has kindly permitted me to post images of these. These include hand painted work-in-progress examples, Printers Proofs etc. of scarves that were gifted as promotion items, menu cards, wine lists etc. Nargis spent 3-4 years at Air-India International before relocating to London to build her career in Advertising.
Here are some examples of her work. On the top left, we have a hand painted design for a scarf. On the top center we have a printers proof of the menu card design which has the artists name signed just below the right hand of the woman. On the top right is another hand painted design of a Poster design. This poster was used to promote the new Slumberettes introduced in the Lockheed Super Constellations acquired by the airline in 1954.
I have added here a link to my Dropbox account for you to enjoy all the lovely items she has preserved.
Post Script: Very nice article appear in Conde Nast Traveler Magazine on May 11, 2018 about Nargis Wadia and her stint in Air-India. Click here to know more.
I recently acquired a travel poster produced by Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) promoting services to India which was part of a larger series of similarly themed posters they issued around the same time. These posters are not dated, and the image on the lower right is of the only information printed on the poster.
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