Maqbool Fida Hussain (17 September 1915 - 9 June 2011) commonly known as MF Husain, was an Indian painter and Film Director.
Husain was associated with Indian modernism in the 1940s. His narrative paintings, executed in a modified Cubist style, can be caustic and funny as well as serious and sombre. His themes usually treated in series include topics as diverse as Mohandas K. Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the British raj, and motifs of Indian urban and rural life.
One of the most celebrated and internationally recognized Indian artists of the 20th century; he also received recognition as a printmaker, photographer, and filmmaker.
Husain was born into a Muslim family on 17 September 1915 in Pandharpur, Maharashtrato a Sulaymani Bohra family. Primarily self-taught, Husain painted cinema posters inMumbai early in his career. To earn extra money, he worked for a toy company designing and building toys. He often travelled to Gujarat to paint landscapes when he could afford to.
Husain first became well known as an artist in the late 1940s. He was one of the original members of the Bombay Progressive Artist's Group founded by Francis Newton Souza. This was a clique of young artists who wished to break with the nationalist traditions established by the Bengal school of art and to encourage an Indian avant-garde, engaged at an international level. His first U.S.A. exhibit was at India House in New York in 1982. In 1952, his first solo exhibition was held at Zurich and over the next few years, his work was widely seen in Europe and the US. In 1955, he was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri award by the Government of India.
In 1967, he made his first film, Through the Eyes of a Painter. It was shown at the Berlin Film Festival and won a Golden Bear (Short Film) M. F. Husain was a special invitee along with Pablo Picasso at the Sao Paulo Biennial (Brazil) in 1971. 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.
Indifferent to both religion and politics, Husain, a Muslim by upbringing, treated the gods and goddesses of Hinduism as visual stimuli rather than deities, depicting them unclothed and often in sexually suggestive poses.This earned him the bitter hatred of Hindu nationalist groups, which beginning in the 1990s mounted a campaign of intimidation and violence against him. The paintings in question were created in 1970, but did not become an issue until 1996, when they were printed in Vichar Mimansa, a Hindi monthly magazine, which published them in an article headlined "M.F. Husain: A Painter or Butcher" In response, eight criminal complaints were filed against him. In 2004, Delhi High Court dismissed these complaints of "promoting enmity between different groups ... by painting Hindu goddesses - Durga and Sarswati that was later compromised by Hindus".
In 1998 Husain's house was attacked by Hindu groups like Bajrang Dal and art works were vandalised. The leadership of Shiv Sena endorsed the attack. Twenty-six Bajrang Dal activists were arrested by the Police. Protests against Husain also led to the closure of an exhibition in London, England. Husain became the best-paid painter in India, with his highest-selling piece fetching $1.6 million at a 2008 Christie's auction.
Hundreds of lawsuits in connection with Husain's allegedly obscene art were outstanding as of 2007. A warrant was issued for his arrest after he did not appear at a hearing, though this warrant was later suspended, Husain also received death threats.
Husain lived in self-imposed exile from 2006 until his death.He generally lived in Dubai and summered in London. In 2010, he was conferred Qatari nationality, and he surrendered his Indian passport. In Qatar, he principally worked on two large projects, one on and one on the history of Arab civilization, commissioned by Qatar's first lady, Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, and one the history of Indian civilization. The works are to be housed in a museum in Doha.
For the last years of his life Husain lived in Dubai and London, staying away from India, but expressing a strong desire to return, despite fears of being killed.
At the age of 92 Husain was to be given the prestigious Raja Ravi Varma award by the government of Kerala. The announcement led to controversy in Kerala and some cultural organisations campaigned against the granting of the award and petitioned the Kerala courts. Sabarimala spokesperson, Rahul Easwar, went to Kerala High Court and it granted an interim order to stay the granting of the award until the petition had been disposed of. In 2010, the Jordanian Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre named Husain as one of the 500 most influential Muslims.
M. F. Husain died, aged 95, on 9 June 2011, following a heart attack. He had been unwell for several months. He died at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, and was buried in Brook wood Cemetery on 10 June 2011. India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh said his death was a "national loss", and India's former President Pratibha Patil said his death "left a void in the world of art." The actress Shabana Azmi called him an "iconoclastic painter, a wonderful human being and a very good friend" Talking about his self-imposed exile and death outside of India painter Akbar Padamsee said that it was a "pity that a painter as important as Husain had to die outside his own country because of a crowd of miscreants".
The artistic community was supportive as well as critical. Artist Krishan Khanna, one of Husain's contemporaries, stated that "It's not just Husain's but the entire artist community's lives which are at stake. Anybody and everybody can file a case against us now. Anyone can infringe upon our lives". Others who expressed anger at the "vicious campaigns" against Husain, include filmmaker Saeed Mirza, social activist Nafisa Ali, theatre personality M. K. Raina and a host of other artistes, art critics and art gallery owners.
On his part Husain stated that Hindu leaders have not spoken a word against his paintings, and they should have been the first ones to have raised their voice.
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray said, "He only slipped up on the depiction of Hindu gods and goddesses. Otherwise, he was happy and content in his field. If his demise is a loss for modern art, then so be it. May his Allah give him peace?