Thursday, June 9, 2011

M F Hussain, the legend is no more, India has lost its Picasso, and not even on its own soil


Maqbool Fida Husain, 95, the renowned contemporary and progressive artist who put India on the world's art map, died today in London's Royal Brompton hospital, after a month of illness. Husain died of a heart attack at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London.
Husain's art made him a legend. He was undoubtedly India's best known painter who presided over a cult following for more than six decades. However, his contribution to the Indian art goes beyond his numerous celebrated works. In many ways, his life, turbulent in its twilight, was a reflection of the churning that India faces through polarised debates on religion, personal freedom and art.

The man who graduated from painting hoardings for films to becoming India's most celebrated painter was born on Sept 17, 1915 at Pandharpur in Maharashtra. His mother, Zunaib, died in his infancy and his father, Fida, remarried and moved to Indore, where Husain went to school. As a child, Husain learnt the art of calligraphy and loved to read poetries while he resided with his uncle in Baroda. He joined the J J School of Arts and started to earn his living by painting billboards for feature films. In 1947, Hussain won an award for his paintings at the annual exhibition of the Bombay art society and this marked the beginning of a distinguished career ahead waiting for this art maestro.

Husain's creativity, style and innovation in paintings have made him reach the pinnacle in Indian art. In the 1947 annual exhibition of the Bombay Art Society, his painting Sunhera Sansaar was shown. This was his first exhibition. After the Partition later that year, Husain decided to stay in India. Soon the Progressive Artists' Group was formed. F N Souza, a member of The Progressive Artist's Group, invited Hussain to become a member of it in 1948. Through it, Husain was exposed to, and strongly influenced by, the work of Emil Nolde and Oskar Kokoschka.

From 1948 to 1950 a series of exhibitions all over India brought Husain's work to the notice of the public. In 1951 Husain travelled to China. In 1952, had his first solo exhibition in Zurich, and over the next few years his work was widely seen in Europe and the USA. In 1966 Husain was awarded the Padmashree by the Government of India. In 1967, he made his first film, 'Through the Eyes of a Painter' which was shown at the Berlin Festival and won a Golden Bear. Husain went on to make two more films: 'Gaja Gamini' (2000) with his muse Madhuri Dixit and later 'Meenaxi: Tale of 3 Cities' (2004).

In 1971, Hussain was invited along with Pablo Picasso at the Sao Paulo Biennial. Apart from the several solo exhibitions, Hussain has many studios in major metropolitans of the country. In 1973, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, in 1989, the Padma Vibhushan and was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1986.

Some of his best known works are called the Sufi paintings, and were first exhibited at the Pundole Gallery in 1978. During these years Husain slowly grew into a public figure, often embroiled in controversies. His Shwetambari exhibition at the Jehangir Art Gallery consisted of two halls shrouded in white cloth, whorls of which also shared the floor with torn newspapers. Later, he gave a public performance at the Tata Center in Calcutta. For several days a crowd watched as he painted pictures of six goddesses. On the last day of the exhibition he destroyed his paintings by painting the whole thing white.

Husain had become a photogenic icon, and the newspapers loved him. The stuffy Calcutta Club was pilloried when it refused admission to a barefoot Husain on the grounds that he violated their dress code. He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1987, and during his six year term he produced the Sansad Portfolio. In the early '90s, several collections of his paintings were made accessible to the public in exhibitions of permanent galleries. The most interesting of these is the Husain-Doshi Gufa in Ahmadabad, collaboration between the painter and an architect in the construction of a gallery.

Soon, Husain went on to become the highest paid painter in India. His single canvases have fetched up to $2 million at a recent Christie's auction. The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) (Massachusetts, USA) showed a solo exhibition from 4 November 2006 to 3 June 2007. It exhibited Husain’s paintings inspired by the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. In early 2008, Husain’s Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12, a large diptych from the Hindu epic, fetched $1.6 million, setting a world record at Christie's South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale.

His name was also included in the list of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World, issued by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan. 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. The Sabarimala Trust went to the Kerala High Court and it granted an interim order to stay the granting of the award until the petition had been disposed of.

With the rise of Hindutva in the 1990s, some of Husain's works became controversial because of their portrayal of Hindu deities in the nude or in an allegedly sexual manner. 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 Husain. In 2004, Delhi High Court dismissed these complaints.

In 1998 Husain's house was attacked by Hindu groups like Bajrang Dal and art works were vandalised. Shiv Sena endorsed the attack. There were also reportedly death threats. In January, 2010, he was offered the citizenship of Qatar, which he accepted. He was living in Dubai and London since, and breathed his last at a London hospital on 9th june 2011.

The Ashok Art Gallery is internationally known for one of its most important holdings: more than 2000 major works by the world's most significant Artists.Over the past years, as Ashok Art Gallery has become a major centre for contemporary visual art, the Gallery has built a strong collection of contemporary work of different artists, we became a sponsor of the STANDUP-SPEAKOUT Artshow, Organized by Art Of Living Foundation and United Nations.Organized an International Contenmporary Art Exhibition including artists from USA, The Nederlands, Pakistan and India.We have also participated at Art Expo India 2008, 09 Mumbai and India Art Summit 2008 New Delhi.

1 comment:

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