India’s Picasso M F Husain Dies At 95

M.F. Husain, one of the highest profile 20th century Indian, contemporary painters has died, age 95. Husain was living in a self-imposed exile in Dubai since 2006. This was the result of death threats for depicting the Gods and cultural icons nude.  Husain began his career as a film poster artist and came to prominence in the 1950″s. His most controversial painting depicted a nude rendition of a woman shaped like a map of India. “Mother India” is popular in folklore, art and literature. A nude of Hindu goddess Saraswati also infuriated the hard-liners. Husain was associated with Indian modernism in the 1940s. After a long career, when was 81 years old, the controversy over paintings originally created in the 1970s, which were interpreted as anti-Hindu, made him an international figure. In January, 2010, he was offered the citizenship of Qatar, which he accepted.

Husain came to prominence In the 1947 annual exhibition of the Bombay Art Society, where his painting, Sunhera Sansaar was first exhibited. This was his first exhibition and his career took off from this point. Later that year, after the Partition of India, Husain decided to stay and set up a studio in his native country. He helped to form the Progressive Artists Group and was a firm supporter of Modernism. Like many of his generation, Husain was exposed to, and strongly influenced by, the work of Expressionists, Emil Nolde and Oskar Kokoschka. From 1948 to 1950 a series of exhibitions all over India brought Husain’s work to the notice of the public. Later in life, Husain slowly grew into a public figure, often embroiled in controversies. His Shwetambari exhibition at the Jehangir Art Gallery consisted of two halls shrouded in white cloth, bolts of fabric also shared the floor with torn newspapers. Later, he gave a public performance at the Tata Center in Calcutta. For several days a crowd watched as he painted pictures of six goddesses. On the last day of the exhibition he destroyed his paintings by overpainting with white.

Husain had become a photogenic icon, and the newspapers loved him. The stuffy Calcutta Club was pilloried when it refused admission to a barefoot Husain on the grounds that he violated their dress code. He was nominated to the upper house of the Indian Parliament, the Rajya Sabha in 1987; and during his six year term he produced the Sansad Portfolio.  Husain died at the Royal Brompton hospital in London.

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