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M F Husain,The Great Indian Artist,dies in exile

Maqbool Fida Husain died in self-imposed exile,at a hospital in London.

Written by Georgina Maddox | New Delhi |
June 10, 2011 2:08:28 am

Maqbool Fida Husain,the artist who made the idea of India his canvas and inspired several generations with his fiercely energetic blend of empathy and irreverence,died in self-imposed exile,at a hospital in London this morning.

He was 95 years old. Husain was reported to have been suffering from respiratory problems for the last four years but it was his indefatigable spirit that blurred the line between his life and art and stopped him from putting his brush down till the very end. In fact,when gallery owner Dadiba Pundole visited him in London the night before his death,Husain was reportedly sitting up and making doodles on his bedside notepad.

He was last seen in public whizzing around in a wheelchair,giving orders for the completion of his last commissioned series for the royal family of Qatar.

Two of his sons are expected to reach London early tomorrow and decide where his burial will take place. His youngest son,Owais Husain,sent a text saying “thank you for your condolences”,but did not want to comment further.

“It’s a pity that a painter as important as Husain had to die outside his own country because of a crowd of miscreants,” rues fellow painter Akbar Padamsee.

Husain,who was once a member of the Rajya Sabha and had been awarded the Padma Vibhushan,was living in self-imposed exile since 2006,following a series of legal cases and death threats against him over his paintings depicting Hindu goddesses in the nude. Most of the threats and cases came from goons and activists of different Sangh Parivar organisations. But the BJP distanced itself from them today while mourning his death and calling it a great loss to India.

In 2010,Husain accepted Qatari citizenship after surrendering his Indian passport.

“I’ve known Husain since the 1940s,he was always impatient to move on to his next project. He would finish a painting within an hour and within the next half-an-hour he would have sold the work,after which we would go for chai and bun-maska at his favourite Kyani’s café in Mumbai,” recalls Padamsee.

Husain was known for his incisive line and vibrant canvases,of horses,women,nations and iconic figures like Mother Teresa,as well as his eccentric films on muses Madhuri Dixit and Tabu. He was one of the founder members of the Bombay Progressive Artist Group.

Though he was born in a working class family on September 17,1915,Husain’s impatient will and ambitious drive propelled him forward from the tiny lanes of Pandharpur in Maharashtra to the busy streets of Mumbai. There he met F N Souza who took him under his wing,and Husain soon rose from a craftsman who painted hoardings and designed children’s furniture for a living to one of India’s most prominent artists.

Art critic Geeta Kapur calls him one of the important Indian “mascots” who symbolised the coming together of a folk sensibility and early Modernism. His work recently fetched around Rs 2.3 crore at Sotheby’s auction in London.

Ashish Anand,collector and owner of the Delhi Art Gallery,owns one of the more substantial collections of Husain’s work,from the 1940s to the 1990s,his favourite being a 1990 diptych titled Karachi that symbolises Partition through two horses and a standing figure.

“That may have been his self-portrait,but now we will never know. I was trying hard to bring him to India because he often expressed homesickness,but it’s very unfortunate he never made it back to his motherland,” says Anand.

Condoling Husain’s death,President Pratibha Patil said: “A man of multi-dimensional talent,his death would create a deep void in the world of art and creativity. He also brought glory to the house as a Parliamentarian.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: “Husain was one of the brightest stars in the Indian art firmament,which he dominated for nearly 70 years.” In his passing away,Singh said,the nation has lost an “iconic artist and the art world one of its most colourful personalities,whose genius left a deep imprint on Indian art.”

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