"Picasso of India" M.F. Husain dies in exile aged 95

MUMBAI Thu Jun 9, 2011 5:17pm IST

A file photo shows artist Maqbool Fida Husain working on a sketch of Karachi's National stadium during an ODI match between India and Pakistan February 19, 2006. Husain, India's best known painter, died on Thursday at age 95, a close friend of the artist told Reuters. REUTERS/Zahid Hussein/Files

A file photo shows artist Maqbool Fida Husain working on a sketch of Karachi's National stadium during an ODI match between India and Pakistan February 19, 2006. Husain, India's best known painter, died on Thursday at age 95, a close friend of the artist told Reuters.

Credit: Reuters/Zahid Hussein/Files

Related Topics

A statue of the Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, is carried in a taxi to a place of worship on the first day of the ten-day-long Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai August 29, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Ganesh Chaturthi

During Ganesh Chaturthi idols will be taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, and will be immersed in a river or the sea in accordance with Hindu faith.  Slideshow 

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Maqbool Fida Husain, India's best known painter, died in London on Thursday aged 95, a close friend of the artist told Reuters, five years after he left his homeland after being persecuted by Hindu zealots angry at his work.

"He died of old age. It happened early this morning," said Munna Zaveri, who had befriended Husain for 40 years, before leaving for London. "He was in hospital for some time and was supposed to come home today or tomorrow but his condition worsened."

Dubbed the "Picasso of India", Husain's work was a blend of cubism and classical Indian styles that helped put modern Indian art on the global arena. His canvasses sold for millions of dollars.

(For a blog: An encounter with M.F. Husain, click here ,

For a blog: M.F. Husain, Swami Ramdev and the world’s largest democracy, click here)

His depictions of naked Hindu goddesses enraged zealots who attacked his house, vandalised shows displaying his work and drove him to flee India. For years, galleries were too frightened of protests to display his work.

In 2006, he moved from Mumbai to Dubai, later London, and in 2010 accepted Qatari citizenship, a step that led to much soul-searching in India over whether the world's largest democracy could guarantee artistic freedoms.

Husain said he was too old to fight "tooth and nail" and he craved the comforts and facilities needed for his work. Borders did not matter to artists and his work would still be influenced by India's culture, he said in a 2010 television interview.

His death was mourned by artists and drew condolences from politicians, several of whom who have been criticised for not being able to guarantee him the freedom he needed.

A spokesman for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party called it "a great loss", sentiments echoed by President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"He was so prolific that it didn't matter whether some of his art appealed to the masses and some of it was appreciated at the highest level," Anjolie Ela Menon, a leading Indian artist, told Times Now television.

Famous for walking barefoot and carrying a large paintbrush like a riding crop, Husain started as a struggling commercial painter creating cinema hoardings in the late 1930s.

He was part of the Progressive Artists Group, a collective that broke tradition to create avant-garde art. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honour, in 1989 and nominated to the upper house of parliament in 1986.

(Writing by C.J. Kuncheria; Editing by Miral Fahmy)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Rice Bucket Challenge

Rice Bucket Challenge

In India, rice replaces ice in bucket challenge  Full Article 

Power Crisis

Power Crisis

Indian power station coal stocks lowest since 2012 blackouts.  Full Article 

Reuters Exclusive

Reuters Exclusive

Reliance plans $13 billion ln projects including new refinery.  Full Article 

Indian Super league

Indian Super league

Del Piero signs for Delhi.  Full Article 

Finger Injury

Finger Injury

Rohit Sharma ruled out of England one-day series.  Full Article 

Power Play

Power Play

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif distances himself from army as crisis drags on.  Full Article 

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Crisis

Russia says no proof that its military fighting in eastern Ukraine .  Full Article 

India This Week

India This Week

A collection of our best pictures from India  Slideshow 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage