“I observe the world with a child's eyes.”
M F Husain
M F Husain
Hailed as “The Picasso of India” painter and film maker Maqbool Fida (M F) Husain’s mother died when he was still in nappies. As he told the Guardian Newspaper in his 91st year “My mother died when I was one and a half years old. Without a mother there was no real care for me. From seven or eight years old I was on the street all day, just going back to my father's house to sleep. In Hindu culture it is the mother, Shakti, the goddess who takes care of us. My painting has always been a kind of searching for that."
As a high profile non practicing Muslim living in a Hindu country it was unsurprising that Husain become the center of a religious controversy. It came to pass in the 1990’s when his 20 year old depictions of naked Hindu goddesses were deemed to express his hated of Hindus. As the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti website states “M.F. Husain depicts the Deity or person he hates as being naked. He shows the Prophet’s mother, his own mother, his daughter, all the Muslim personalities fully clothed, but in contrast Hindus and Hindu Deities along with Hitler are shown naked. This proves his hatred for Hindus.”
Such were the venom of the attacks that Husain was forced to leave India and become an exile in Doha and London which coupled with his eccentricities of going bare foot whilst dressed in expensive suits and converting hotel rooms into his studio confirmed his status, at the time, as India’s most famous living artist. But whilst he was physically absent from the land of his birth his heart remained. As he told NDTV “I am an original Indian painter and will remain so till my last breath.”
Husain’s first brush with world fame came in 1971 when he was invited, along with Pablo Picasso, to hold a major exhibition at Brazil’s Sao Paulo Biennale. Picasso declined the offer and Husain presented a series of works depicting themes from the Hindu epic poem Mahabharata. Husain is reported to have said about the work ““The moment I got the invitation the first thought came to me... Mahabharata this is the right thing. Then I thought of Picasso... only Picasso could do it justice, [but] he’d not done it. Let me try.”
From his humble beginnings painting Bollywood movie posters and designing toys Husain became a founding member of the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group and excelled in their adoption of post impressionist painting techniques to depict Indian narratives. For both his historical and contemporary works Husain’s inspiration came from his observations of life.
As he has said “I am inspired by each and every incident that life offers me. I draw inspiration from everything under the sun. Even a small stone in a corner of the room may catch my fancy and I can spend hours watching it.”