Basharat Bashir

Remembering M F Husain

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On September 17th 1915 Maqbool Fida Husain born  in a Suleymani Bohra family in Maharashtras Pandharpur town, to Fida Husain and Zunaib Husain. When he was only a year and a half old he lost his mother and after few months his father remarried and moved to Indore, where Husain completed his schooling. For a few years during his teenage life, Husain stayed in Baroda, and it was there that he was introduced to the art of calligraphy. The art of calligraphy gradually intensified his curiosity to learn more about the art field in general.  As his interest in the field of art grew he decided to make it his profession and in 1935 to pursue his dream of becoming an artist he moved to Bombay (Mumbai) and enrolled at the famous Sir J. J. School of Art.

M F Husain is not just another name in the history of Indian art, but he is a whole definition of what Indian modern art is all about. He reshaped the whole art scenario and led his contemporaries in whole new direction. He was one of the founding member of Bombay ‘Progresive Arists Group’ formed in 1947 immediately after the partition of India. The intention of the group was to break the age-old tradition of the Bengal school of art and encourage artists to embrace modernism which was the key to take Indian art to the world stage. As the movement grew in its spectrum and gained recognition more artists soon adopted their ideology which in turn became a turning point in the history of Indian art.

 Husain is one of the most celebrated and internationally recognized Indian artists of the 20th century. His innovative approach to his paintings gave him a unique recognition as a creative genius. Although his late artistic career was filled with controversies but his legacy was never undermined. His first major international exhibition was held in Zurich in the year 1952 and then in the United States in 1964. Alongside with his rising international repute as an artist Husain found himself dejected by his own people in his own country.  Hindu nationalist groups often targeted him for hurting religious sentiments and  in 1996, a Hindi monthly magazine  ‘Vichar Mimansa’ published some of his controversial paintings that were created in the 1970s. The paintings that depicted nude Hindu goddesses enraged many Hindus and Hindu organizations and subsequently a series of complaints were lodged against him. The animosity against him did not go away and two years later, his house was attacked by Hindu mob, vandalizing many of his paintings.

 Husain is considered one of the pioneers of Indian art whose unparalleled contribution in the development of modern Indian art gave him a special place among his contemporaries. His themes which are sometimes in a series include diverse topics from Gandhi and Mother Teresa to Ramayana and Mahabharata, as some of his paintings illustrate the British Raj others demonstrate the motifs of Indian urban and rural life. He is often recalled as ‘Picasso of India’ for his modified Cubist style as well as his fame in his long artistic career. Alongside with painting Hussain had a great interest in filmmaking and presented  ‘Through the Eyes of a Painter’ as his debut film in 1967.  The film was showcased at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival and also won the Golden Bear short film award.

Husain was once again hauled into a controversy in 2006 for portraying Bharatmata (Mother India) as nude women in vivid colors representing map of India. He was subsequently charged for hurting the sentiments of people. The painting was forced to be withdrawn from various auctions and an apology was demanded from the artist. Husain was eventually forced to leave India as various powerful Hindu organizations threatened his life.  Husain lived in self-imposed exile from 2006 until his death. Despite fear of being persecuted Husain expressed a strong desire to return to India but could not fulfill his wish. On 9 June 2011 at the age of 95 he died in London, and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery on 10 June 2011.

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