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M.F. Husain Biography: Birth, Death, Early Life, Controversies, Awards, Painting and Film Career

M.F. Husain Biography: Maqbool Fida Husain was an Indian artist famous for making bold and vibrant coloured paintings. He was also associated with the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group. His paintings and films have landed him in various controversies.
Jun 9, 2020 17:16 IST
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M.F. Husain
M.F. Husain

M.F. Husain or Maqbool Fida Husain was an Indian artist famous for making bold and vibrant coloured paintings. M.F. Husain was one of the most celebrated Indian artists of the 20th century. He was also associated with the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group. His paintings and films have landed him in various controversies. 

Birth 17 September 1915
Death 9 June 2011 (age 95 years)
Profession Painting
Painting style Cubist
Education Sir J. J. School of Art
Awards Padma Bhushan (1973)
Padma Vibhushan (1991)
Nationality Indian (1915-2010)
Qatari (2010-2011)
Political Career

Rajya Sabha MP

(12 May 1986 – 11 May 1992)

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M.F. Husain: Early Life

M.F. Husain was born on September 17, 1915, in Pandharpur, Maharashtra. Husain developed an interest in art while studying calligraphy. He attended the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Mumbai. 

M.F. Husain: Career

In his early years, Husain painted the cinema posters in Mumbai and travelled to Gujarat to paint landscapes.

In the 1930s, Husain painted billboards for the Bollywood film industry. In Husain's view, the partition of India and Pakistan was a turning point for India as it gave birth to modern Indian art which resulted in the formation of The Progressive Artist's Group in Bombay in December 1947.

In 1952, Husain's first solo exhibition was in Zurich. In 1964, his first US exhibit was at India House situated in New York. In 1971, Husain was a special invitee along with Pablo Picasso at the Sao Paulo Biennial. In the year 1986, Husain was nominated to Rajya Sabha. 

M.F. Husain: Controversies

Despite being raised in a Muslim family, Husain through his paintings captured the essence of beauty in other religious cultures. His paintings hurt the religious sentiments of Hindu nationalists groups which launched a protest against him. 

A painting that was made by Husain in the year 1970 was published in a magazine 'Vichar Mimansa' in 1996 under an article titled 'M.F. Husain: A Painter or Butcher'. After the article was published, 8 complaints were filed against Husain for promoting enmity between different groups (by painting Hindu goddesses – Durga and Saraswati). 

In 1998, Husain's house was attacked by groups like Bajrang Dal and his artworks were destroyed. The attack was endorsed by Shiv Sena. In connection with the attack, 26 Bajrang Dal members were arrested by the police. Delhi High Court dismissed the criminal complaints in 2004 against Husain. 

In February 2006, a nude painting of Hindu Gods and Goddesses by Husain was widely criticized as it hurt the religious sentiments of the people. Apart from this, on February 6, 2006, an advertisement was published by India Today under the title 'Art For Mission Kashmir'. The painting earned huge criticism as it represented Mother India as a nude woman posing across a map of India and the names of states were written on various parts of her body.

Following the protests and criticism, Husain apologized and promised to withdraw the painting from the auction. However, the same painting was sold for Rs 80 lakhs in the auction. 

M.F. Husain: Films 

M.F. Husain produced and directed many movies including Gaja Gamini in 2000 which was a tribute to Madhuri Dixit. Husain also appeared in a movie 'Mohabbat' starring Madhuri Dixit in a lead role. Husain paired up with Tabu in the movie 'Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities'. However, after its release, the film was pulled out of cinemas by Muslim organisations as one of its songs 'Noor-un-Ala-Noor' hurt the religious sentiments. In addition to this, All-India Ulema Council quoted the song as profane and argued that the songs have many words that have been directly taken from the Quran. The Milli  Council, All-India Muslim Council, Raza Academy, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind and Jamat-e-Islami endorsed the complaint of  All-India Ulema Council. 

Following the wave of protests by many Muslim organizations, Husain's son backed his father and stated that the phrases taken in the song referred to divine beauty and there was no intention to hurt the religious sentiments of the people. The film was withdrawn by Husain from the cinemas. however, it received several awards and was well taken by the critics.

M.F. Husain: Life in exile

M.F. Husain lived in a self-imposed exile from 2006 until his death in 2011. Several lawsuits were filed against him alleging his obscene art. A warrant was also issued against Husain for not appearing at a hearing, but later the warrant was suspended. 

In 2008, Husain after leaving India was commissioned to create 32 paintings depicting Indian History. He finished 8 paintings before his death in 2011. He was also commissioned to create paintings on Arab civilization by Qatar's first lady Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned. 

M.F. Husain generally lived in Doha and in London. He stayed away from India in a self-imposed exile but expressed returning back to India. In 2010, a year before his death, M.F. Husain surrendered his Indian passport and conferred Qatari nationality. 

M.F. Husain: Death

M.F. Husain died on June 9, 2011, at the age of 95 after a cardiac arrest. He took his last breath at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery on June 10, 2011. 

M.F. Husain: Awards and Recognitions

1- Padma Shri (1966) by the Government of India.

2- Padma Bhushan (1973) by the Government of India.

3- Padma Vibhushan (1991) by the Government of India.

4- Raja Ravi Varma Award (2007) by the Government of Kerala.

5- Honorary Doctorates--  Banaras Hindu University, Jamia Millia Islamia, and the University of Mysore.

6- National Art Award (2004) by Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi.

7- Aditya Vikram Birla ‘Kalashikkar’ Award (1997) for Lifetime Achievement.

8- National Film Award for Best Experimental Film (1968) for 'Through the Eyes of a Painter' in India.

9- Golden Bear short film award (1967) for his film 'Through the Eyes of a Painter' at Berlin International Film Festival and was purchased by Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York.

10- International Biennale Award (1959), Tokyo.

11- First Prize at the National Exhibition of Art (1955), Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi.

12- Bombay Art Society (1947), Mumbai. 

13- On his 100th birth anniversary, Google commemorated M.F. Husain with a Doodle. 

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