Artistic genius M.F. Husain dies in exile (Roundup)

June 9th, 2011 - 8:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh London/New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) 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.

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.

Minister Ambika Soni said, “It is true that he was upset with the government on some issues…It’s unfortunate that some narrow-minded people tried to judge his creativity and artistic works.”

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (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.”

Actor Rahul Bose tweeted, “Husain passes away. We hang our heads partly in grief and partly in shame for not being able to let him spend his last days in this country.”

-Indo-Asian News Service
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