M. F. Husain
|Maqbool Fida Husain|
MF Husain at Museum of Islamic Art, Doha
|Born||Maqbool Fida Husain
17 September 1915
Pandharpur, Maharashtra, India
|Died||9 June 2011
London, England, UK
|Education||Sir J. J. School of Art|
|Known for||Painting, Drawing, Writer, Film Maker|
|Notable work||Meenaxi a tale of three cities
Through the eyes of a painter
|Movement||Progressive Art Group|
|Awards||Padma Shri (1966)
Padma Bhushan (1973)
Padma Vibhushan (1991)
Maqbool Fida Husain (17 September 1915 – 9 June 2011) ) (Urdu: مقبول فدا حسین ) commonly known as MF Husain, was a Modern Indian painter of International acclaim, and a founding member of The Progressive Artists Group of Bombay (PAG). He also had a hand as a Film Director. In 1967, he has received the National Film Award for Best Experimental Film for Through The Eyes of a Painter. In 2004, he directed Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities, which was screened in the Marché du Film section of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
Husain was associated with Indian modernism in the 1940s. His early association with the Progressive Artist's Group, or "PAG of Bombay" used modern technique, and was inspired by the "new" India after The Partition of 1947. His narrative paintings, executed in a modified Cubist style, can be caustic and funny as well as serious and sombre. His themes—sometimes 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. Early in his painting career, and until his death, he enjoyed depicting the lively and free spirit of horses in many of his works. Often referred to as the "Picasso of India," M.F. Husain is the most celebrated and internationally recognized Indian artist of the 20th century. Hussain is primarily known for his paintings, but is also known for his drawings and his work as a printmaker, photographer, and filmmaker. Some of his later works stirred controversy, as they depicted traditional Deities of India in non traditional ways.
M. F. Husain was born in a Muslim family on 17 September 1915 in Pandharpur to a Sulaymani Bohra family who trace their roots back to Gujarat within the last 200 years, and then originally to Yemen. Primarily self-taught, Husain painted cinema posters in Mumbai 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.
He got married to Fazila in 1941. The couple had two daughters Raisa and Aqueela and three sons, Mustafa, Shamshad and Owais.
Husain first became well known as an artist in the late 1940s. He was one of the founding members of the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group originally envisioned 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. The artists cite "The Partition" of India and Pakistan 14 August 1947, with its resulting religious rioting and heavy loss of life as their reason for forming The Progressive Artist's Group in Bombay in December, 1947. The artists saw the Partition as a "turning point" for India, and their new style of art was urged on by, and was also a turning point for, (modern) Indian Art. Husain's first solo exhibit was in 1952 in Zurich. His first U.S.A. exhibit was at India House in New York in 1964.  In 1966, he was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri award by the Government of India.
M. F. Husain was a special invitee along with Pablo Picasso at the Sao Paulo Biennial (Brazil) in 1971. [better source needed] He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1973 and was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1986.[better source needed] He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1991.
His paintings allegedly hurt the religious sentiments of Hindu nationalist groups, which beginning in the 1990s mounted a campaign of protest 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.
He has also produced & directed several movies, including Gaja Gamini (2000) (with his muse Madhuri Dixit who was the subject of a series of his paintings which he signed Fida). The film was intended as a tribute to Ms. Dixit herself.[better source needed] In this film she can be seen portraying various forms and manifestations of womanhood including the muse of Kalidasa, the Mona Lisa, a rebel, and musical euphoria. He also appeared in a scene in film Mohabbat, which had Madhuri Dixit in lead role. In the film, the paintings that were supposedly done by Madhuri were actually Husain's. He went on to make Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities (with Tabu). The film was pulled out of cinemas a day after some Muslim organisations raised objections to one of the songs in it. The All-India Ulema Council complained that the Qawwali song Noor-un-Ala-Noor was blasphemous. It argued that the song contained words directly taken from the Quran. The council was supported by Muslim organisations like the Milli Council, All-India Muslim Council, Raza Academy, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind and Jamat-e-Islami. Husain's son stated that the words were a phrase referring to divine beauty that were being sung by the central character played by Tabu. He said there was no intention to offend. Following the wave of protests the enraged artist withdrew his movie from cinemas. The film was well received by the critics, however, and went on to win various awards.
In February 2006, Husain was charged with "hurting sentiments of people" because of his nude portraits of Hindu gods and goddesses. In addition, in the 6 February 2006 issue, India Today, a national English weekly published an advertisement titled "Art For Mission Kashmir". This advertisement contains a painting of Bharatmata (Mother India) as a nude woman posed across a map of India with the names of Indian States on various parts of her body. The exhibition was organised by Nafisa Ali of Action India (NGO) and Apparao Art Gallery. Organizations like Hindu Jagruti Samiti and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) have protested persistently against Husain displaying the painting on the websites and even in exhibitions in north Europe. As a result, Husain apologized and promised to withdraw the painting from an auction, which was later sold for Rs 80 lakh in the auction. The painting later appeared on Husain's official website.
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.
In 2010, he was conferred Qatari nationality, and he surrendered his Indian passport. In Qatar, he principally worked on two large projects, one on the history of Arab civilization, commissioned by Qatar's first lady, Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, and one on 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 Doha 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. Social Activist, 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.
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 Brookwood Cemetery on 10 June 2011. India's former 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".
Supporters and critics
The artistic community was supportive as well as critical. 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. Salil Tripathi, writing in the International Herald Tribune, notes that Hindu goddesses have regularly been portrayed in the nude by Hindu artists. Tripathi wrote, "It is hypocritical to place curbs on Husain's artistic freedom. What's more shameful is that a government that claims to be the secular alternative to Hindu nationalists is threatening to prosecute Husain. This does not do India proud; it adds to India's disgrace."
Other Indian artists expressed criticism. Satish Gujral publicly asked Husain whether he would dare to portray Islamic figures similarly. However Gujral stated that he deeply regretted the way Husain was treated and forced into an exile because of what Gujral termed "the mob culture". According to a senior Hindu artist and former President, Bombay Art Society, Gopal Adivrekar, "Nothing is bad in being creative but the artists should not go for such artwork, which may hurt the sentiments of a segment of the society."
Writing in The Pioneer, Chandan Mitra wrote, "As long as such a law exists in the statutes, nobody can be faulted for approaching the courts against Hussain's objectionable paintings, nor can the judiciary be pilloried for ordering action against the artist for his persistent and deliberate refusal to appear before the court."
In response to the controversy, Husain's admirers petitioned the government to grant Husain the Bharat Ratna, India's highest award. According to Shashi Tharoor, who supported the petition, it praised Husain because his "life and work are beginning to serve as an allegory for the changing modalities of the secular in modern India – and the challenges that the narrative of the nation holds for many of us. This is the opportune and crucial time to honour him for his dedication and courage to the cultural renaissance of his beloved country."
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.
After Husain's death, 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 Allah give him peace!"
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