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Artistic genius M.F. Husain dies in exile
Published on 10 Jun. 2011 12:38 AM IST
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Maqbool Fida Husain, one of India’s most prized and gifted painters who was forced to live in self-exile from his homeland due to threats from Hindu radicals, passed away in London Thursday. His death, at 95, left a void in the art world. Husain, hailed as the Picasso of India, was ailing from age-related problems and breathed his last in a London hospital after suffering a heart attack, family sources in New Delhi said.
The father of six children, his close family members were with him when he died. His last rites would be conducted in London and not in India, the sources said.
His death cast a pall of gloom on the Indian art world. A “rare genius”, “renaissance man”, “god’s gift”, even “sanyasi”, the man with the flowing white hair and beard who had the “energy of a 35-year-old”- they recalled him with warmth and affection
A Muslim by faith, his motto was art could not be shackled by the narrow confines of religions, caste, creed and colour - a philosophy that eventually led to his exile to Dubai.
Husain, who once painted cinema hoardings and rose to become one of the world’s most celebrated artists, was forced to leave India in 2006 after his paintings of Hindu godesses in the nude triggered attacks on his works and police complaints against him by rightwing Hindu organisations. Husain had accepted Qatari citizenship last year.
President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today led the nation in paying rich tributes to legendary artist MF Husain even as the government regretted that he had to live outside the country because of some “narrow-minded” people.
While the Indian government failed to bring him back when he was alive, his death was widely mourned in the country. “It is a national loss,” said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Condoling the death of Husain, the President said, he was a world renowned artist whose extra-ordinary style made him a celebrity on his own right in the arena of contemporary paintings.
Vice President Ansari said Husain, a “legend of art of our times”, was a keen observer of national evolution which was reflected in his art while Singh described the 95-year-old painter’s death as a “national loss”.
The opposition BJP, seen as part of the larger fraternity of Hindu organisations, offered a guarded condolence, saying he had contributed a lot to Indian art but “had got distanced from India and Indians”.
Husain was born in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, Sep 17, 1915 to Zunaib and father Fida. His tryst with painting began when he learnt the art of calligraphy. He moved to Mumbai, India’s entertainment capital, at a young age to become an artist and painted cinema billboards to make a living. He went on to be part of the progressive school of artists in he late 1940s.
Controversy and fame went hand in hand for the lanky and silver-maned Husain. He was known to move around barefoot, even in elite circles.
He made a name for himself with his paintings on horses and figurative drawings. His untitled work in Christie’s fetched $2 million in 2006.
Husain had a keen interest in films and was fascinated by actress Madhuri Dixit. He made movies with her and Tabu and he was keen to make a film with Vidya Balan.
But Husain could never come back to India due to repeated threats from the Hindu rightwing.
“The Indian government didn’t let him stay with us for a long time,” his sister said Zubeida S. Ali said.
But the artist fraternity remained his lifelong friend and called it shameful that he could not come back to India despite a burning desire to do so.
Artist Anjolie Ela Menon, who had a long association with Husain, said, “I can’t bear the idea of ever thinking of him not being there.”

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