Husain dies exiled from his homeland
Maqbool Fida Husain, who was hailed as
the Picasso of India but was forced to live in self-imposed exile
from his homeland due to death threats from Hindu radicals, died
in London Thursday. He
New Delhi: The passing
away of Maqbool Fida Husain, India's leading international face in
contemporary 20th century art, marks the end of a golden era in
India's tryst with new-age art in an Indian idiom.
The man who loved Madhuri Dikshit, the darling of Bollywood, and
galloping stallions in his eclectic colourscapes that exploded on
the viewers' face with its blitz of vibrant colours died in a
London hospital of a heart attack in the wee hours of Thursday,
just three months short of his 96th birthday.
Billed as one of the most expensive artists in the subcontinent
and in Asia, Husain leaves behind six children and a fleet of 13
swanky sports cars that included a trademark red Ferrari and the
latest model of a Bugatti that he acquired year before last on his
birthday. And of course a vast legacy of art - unparalleled.
His canvases notched up to $2 million, a sale record for an Indian
artist, at international auctions. And he was the staple of art
world controversies. The India Art Summit - India's official art
fair - virtually subsisted on the controversies that exhibiting
the works of Husain ratcheted up in the form of media headlines.
At the time of his death, the bearded artist who loved to pad
around barefoot, towered over his peers, both in his vocation and
in his regal good looks, was a citizen of Qatar, patronised by the
Sheikha (the sultan's wife) of Doha, who commissioned several art
works by him.
On his last birthday in 2010, he set the emirate ablaze with his
life size installations of horses in Italian Murano glass that
were placed atop his cars on the high streets.
For old family friend and admirer, photographer and activist Ram
Rahman, "It is an irreparable loss that will never be redressed."
"The fact that India's most famous artist could not return home
before his death is unfortunate," the photographer told IANS.
Husain, known for his cubist and abstract depiction of figures and
animals in Indian art, brought to the canvas a freedom which very
few artists had the courage to replicate. His motto was art could
not be shackled by the narrow confines of religions, caste, creed
and colour - a philosophy that eventually led to his exile to
Dubai in 2006.
His painting of the Bharat Mata and Indian goddesses in the nude
earned him the wrath of Hindu rightwing activists who had moved
court against the artist, forcing him to leave the country.
In 2010, he became a citizen of Doha and spent his time between
the Arab world and London, where he had a studio.
A secular man, Husain was inspired by every faith - from Ramayana,
Mahabharata, Gajagamini, an essentially Hindu concept, to
Mughal-e-Azam, the Bollywood blockbuster, in his art. A movie, "Gajagamini",
which he made in the late 1990s as his tribute to Bollywood
ladies, starred his muse Madhuri Dikshit.
It was followed by "Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities" starring Tabu.
In 1967, Husain made his first movie, "Through the Eyes of a
Painter", which won a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
At the time of his death, his autobiography was being made into a
movie tentatively titled "The Making of the Painter" starring
Shreyas Talpade as the young Husain.
Husain changed the destiny and colour of Indian contemporary
canvas with his ethnic sensibilities culled from everyday life,
nature, epics, myths and rural India.
He was one of the prominent members of the Mumbai Progressive
Artists Group founded by F.N. Souza in the 1940s. Husain freed art
from the domination most 19th European expressionism and
impressionist influences to create a distinctive Indian metaphor.
Born Sep 17, 1915 in Pandharpur in Maharashtra, he was popularly
known as MF. But some of his old time associates remember him as "Fida."
According to Forbes magazine, he was the "Picasso of India".
He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1973 and was nominated to the
Rajya Sabha in 1986. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1991.
He was also honoured with the prestigious Raja Ravi Varma award by
the government of Kerala.
One of his sons, Delhi-based Shamshad Husain, recalls, "I have
heard so much about my grandparents and how they relocated from
Pandharpur to Indore."
"My mother's mother was born in Hyderabad and my father's mother
was from Pandharpur," Shamshad had told IANS.
"My father was a year and a half when my grandmother shifted to
Indore with my grandfather. My father's grandfather was alive
then. My grandfather was an accountant in the mill - but as he was
a Muslim, he was kicked out," he said.
M.F. Husain earned his father's displeasure because he was not
interested in studies in school and just wanted to paint. "But my
great-grandfather supported my father."
Around 1935, the family shifted to Mumbai. "My father did not
finish school and took to painting cinema hoardings to support the
family of six children," Shamshad said. According to Husain
junior, his father proved to be a pillar of strength.
"I remember sitting next to him, watching him paint cinema
hoardings in the 50s. Life was very tough and he made only six to
eight annas (half a rupee) a day in the beginning. After the day's
work, he used to paint by the lamp post," Shamshad said.
The family lived in a single room on Grant Road for which M.F.
Husain had to pay a rent of Rs.16. The children slept outside.
In 1947, M.F. Husain's first exhibition was held in Bombay Art
Society where his painting "Sunhera Sansaar" was exhibited to
Between a period of 1948 to 1950, a series of exhibitions of M.F.
Husain's paintings travelled all over India. In 1956, his
paintings were exhibited in the art galleries of Prague and
After that, there was no looking back for M.F. Husain.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at email@example.com )