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M. F. Husain

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Born: September 17, 1915 in Pandharpur (MP).

The Early Years

Maqbool Fida Husain's mother, Zunaib, died in his infancy and his father, Fida, remarried and moved to Indore, where Husain went to school. He moved to Mumbai at age 20 when he was admitted to the J. J. School of Arts. He married in 1941. During his early days in Mumbai he earned money painting cinema hoarding--- one of the often-told stories about his early days. In Husain's own words:

We were paid barely four or six annas per square foot. That is, for a 6x10 feet canvas, we earned a few rupees. And apart from the New Theatre distributor, the others did not pay us at all. As soon as I earned a little bit I used to take off for Surat, Baroda and Ahmedabad to paint landscapes.

Given this bad pay, Husain tried other jobs as well. One of the best paying was a toy factory, where he designed and built fretwork toys.

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. 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.

The 1950s and '60s

In 1951 Husain travelled to China. In the following year he 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 the following year he made his first film, Through the Eyes of a Painter. It was shown at the Berlin Festival and won a Golden Bear.

The 1970s

Some of his best known works are called the Sufi paintings, and were first exhibited at the Pundole Gallery in 1978.

The 1980s

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 overpainting with 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 upper house of the Indian Parliament, the Rajya Sabha in 1987; and during his six year term he produced the Sansad Portfolio.

The 1990s

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, a collaboration between the painter and an architect in the construction of a gallery.

Husain's most interesting paintings of this period is the series named after the film-star Madhuri Dixit.

Links to images of Husain's paintings at other sites

Image Horses, oil on canvas, 19??. (539.7 Kbytes)
Image Raagmala, oil on canvas, 19??. (604.9 Kbytes)
Image Portrait of an Umbrella V, medium unknown, 19??. (20.1 Kbytes)

© Copyright and disclaimer. Created on Dec 3, 1995; last modified Feb 7, 1999.