Early Life of Indian Artist – M F Husain
Indian artist Maqboul Fida Hussain was born on the 17th of September 1915, although some records suggest it was 1913 in Pandharpur in Maharashtra in India. M. F. Husain lost his mother when he was a young boy. Subsequently his paternal grandmother looked after him. Later, he was sent to live with his maternal grandfather at Siddhpur in Gujarat. Here Husain learnt to read Urdu and became fascinated with the geometric forms of Kufic Calligraphy. This sparked his interest in drawing. At the age of 20 he went to Bombay, now known as Mumbai, and began studying at the Sir J. J. School of Art. In 1937 he decided to become an artist and concentrate on painting. Times were hard and he lived in a cheap room in a slum area of Bombay supporting himself with lots of odd jobs.
His break came in the late 1940’s when he won a prize at the Annual exhibition of Bombay Art Society. This brought his work to the attention of the influential Indian artist Francis Newton Souza. In 1947 Souza invited M F Husain to become a founder member of the Bombay Progressive Artist’s group.During this time Husain’s reputation grew and he held his first solo exhibition outside of India in 1952 in Zurich, Switzerland. Later, in 1964 he held his first exhibition the United States in India House in New York. The majority of his painting were created in a modified Cubist style. He often painted a series of paintings around a single topic. Covering themes as diverse as Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Ramayana, one of the two epic poems of India, the British raj, and Indian urban and rural life. His great love though was for horses, their free spirit and lively inspired. During the early part of his career, Indian artist Husain enjoyed great fame and respect both in India and other parts of the world. In 1971 he was a specially invited, along with Pablo Picasso, to the Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil.
But the latter part of his career was mired in controversy. M. F. Husain was a secular Muslim and in 1996, a Hindi monthly magazine published an article headlined “M.F. Husain: A Painter or Butcher”. The article included a number of his controversial paintings produced in the 1970s, which depicted Hindu goddesses as nudes. As a result, eight criminal complaints were filed against him. Although these were dismissed by the Indian High Court in 2004 it did not stop his house being attacked and his 2006 exhibition in London, being closed after two men attacked his paintings.
He moved to Doha, Qatar where he would live during the winter, spending summers in London. He did this for the rest of his life often expressing a strong desire to return to India but never quite achieving it.
Whilst in Qatar he was commissioned by Qatar’s first lady, to paint the History of Arab civilisation and in 2008 to produce 32 paintings depicting the History of India. Unfortunately, he only completed 8 of the paintings before he died on the 9th June 2011 in London. He was 95 years old and is buried in Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey, England. Known throughout his life simply as MF Hussain, he is often referred to as the ‘Picasso of India’ and despite the controversy, he is regarded as one of the most celebrated and internationally recognised Indian artists of the 20th century.
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