M.F. Husain

Getting to Know:

M.F. Husain

September 17, 1915 - June 9, 2011

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M.F. Husain, born Maqbool Fida Husain on September 17, 1915, in Pandharpur, India, was a renowned artist whose profound impact on the global art scene solidified his status as a master of modern Indian painting. Raised in a secular Muslim family, Husain spent his formative years in Indore before relocating to Bombay (now Mumbai) in the 1930s.

Husain's artistic journey commenced with a brief period studying calligraphy at the Indore Art College. However, he soon ventured into painting graphic billboard advertisements for Bollywood movies and pursued toy design. As his skills developed, he began to travel to Gujarat to paint landscapes, whenever his resources permitted.

In 1947, Husain gained recognition when his first significant body of work was exhibited by the Bombay Art Society. This achievement led to his invitation to join the Progressive Artists Group, a collective founded by six painters. Husain's association with this group allowed him to embrace modern techniques and draw inspiration from the transformative era of post-partition India.

In 1953, Husain embarked on his maiden journey to Europe, where he encountered the works of influential artists such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Henri Matisse. Their artistic prowess left an indelible impression on him and greatly influenced his own artistic style. Subsequently, Husain went on to achieve worldwide acclaim, earning the moniker "Picasso of India" for his exceptional talent. He even had the privilege of being a special invitee, alongside Picasso, at the Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil in 1971.

Husain's artistic oeuvre encompassed a diverse range of themes. From portraying horses, Indian urban and rural life, to capturing the essence of the renowned Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit, his paintings exhibited a bold and vibrant color palette combined with a modified Cubist style.

Despite receiving national honors such as the Padma Bhushan in 1973, Husain's career was not without controversy. Some of his artistic depictions, including nude representations of Hindu goddesses, elicited criticism and allegations of disrespect. Although raised in a Muslim household, Husain sought to explore the beauty present in various religious cultures, often pushing the boundaries of censorship in India. He once commented on the controversy surrounding his work, stating, "I think you don't do work for controversy alone, and whenever you do new work which people don't understand and they say it is done to create controversy."

In 2006, due to multiple lawsuits filed against him by the Indian government, accusing him of defaming Hindu culture, Husain was compelled to go into exile. He spent the remaining years of his life dividing his time between Qatar and the United Kingdom. Notably, when the Museum of Islamic Art opened in Doha, Qatar, in 2008, it included the first of 99 specially commissioned paintings by Husain. In recognition of his contributions, Husain accepted Qatari citizenship in 2010.

In addition to painting, Husain showcased his versatility as an artist through endeavors in printmaking, photography, and filmmaking. His short film "Through the Eyes of a Painter" even garnered critical acclaim, winning a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1967.

Husain passed away on June 9, 2011, in London, United Kingdom. His remarkable artworks continue to find a home in esteemed institutions worldwide, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai, and the National Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.

Throughout his lifetime, Husain received numerous accolades, including honorary doctorates from renowned institutions such as Benares Hindu University, Jamia Millia Islamia, and Mysore University. The Government of India recognized his contributions by awarding him the prestigious Padma Shri in 1955, the Padma Bhushan in 1973, and the Padma Vibhushan in 1989. In 1997, he received the Aditya Vikram Birla Kala Shikhar Award in recognition of his lifetime achievement.

The legacy of M.F. Husain endures as his artworks continue to captivate art enthusiasts and fetch significant prices at auctions worldwide. His artistic prowess, coupled with his profound impact on the art world, solidifies his status as a true master of modern Indian painting.

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