Maqbool Fida Husain also known as ‘Picasso of India’ was India’s internationally renowned modern artist and Filmmaker. His paintings are considered to be the most controversial paintings ever created by any Indian artist. Depicting nude Hindu goddesses in his occult paintings were hardly accepted by the Hindu society. In spite of many controversies, he was highly respected among Indians and international artists.M.F Hussain was a millionaire painter whose first painting was purchased by a stranger for 10 rupees. Husain became the best-paid painter in India, with his highest-selling piece fetching $1.6 million at a 2008 Christie’s auction. The Battle of Ganga and Jamuna. Let’s throw some light on Hussain’s career and know about another legendary artist from India.

M.F Hussain

Name: Maqbool Fida Husain (popularly known as M.F Hussain)
Born: 17 September 1915
Birth place: Pandharpur, Maharashtra, India
Death: 9 June 2011 (aged 95)
Death cause: heart attack
Death place: London, England, UK
Wife: Fazila Bibi (married on March 11th, 1941)
Childrens: 6 children, his 2 sons are also painters.

Early life

Born to a very poor family in Northern India, he lost his mother at the age of one and a half years. Having very little support from his grandfather, he taught himself to paint. His father was an accountant in a textile mill.

Hussain’s mother, Zunaib died when he was one and a half years old. His father remarried and moved to the Indore city when Hussain was 6 years old though his stepmother was there to take care of him Hussain spent most of his time with his grandfather.

Hussain was never interested in studies and after passing his matriculation he requested his grandfather that he doesn’t want to waste his time in further studies and showed convincing desire to live his life as a painter. Belonging from a poor family his father didn’t have sufficient money to send him to Bombay so he decided to go without a penny.

Although his family never accepted that, but Hussain did what he loved.In 1935, He moved to Bombay. Hussain slept on the footpath in early days of his career.

Education and Career

For 3 years, he painted continuously non-stop without selling or exhibiting his works just to learn different forms of art with his neighbour.

In 1935, He took admission into Sir J. J. School of Art (Bombay) at the age of 20.

Primarily self-taught, Husain painted cinema posters in Mumbai early in his career. To earn extra money, he worked for a toy company designing and building toys. He often travelled to Gujarat to paint landscapes.

He was one of the six members of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group founded by Francis Newton Souza. It was a career breakthrough for Hussain and he started being recognised as one of the big artists of the country.

Hussain’s art involved an altered Cubist style.

As a Filmmaker

Hussain wanted to be a filmmaker. For him, it’s a field where different kind of arts like music, literature, story, drama, technology etc combines to produce a film.

Through The Eyes of a Painter, 1967

Hussain chose Rajasthan as the place, which he often visited hitherto to draw the paintings. He filmed various places and scenery very much known to him. Whatever came close to his heart was filmed. There is not a single dialogue in this film of fifteen minutes duration.

Gaja Gamini, 2000

starring Madhuri and Shah Rukh Khan.The central figure of the film is represented by a mysterious figure called “Gaja Gamini” (Madhuri Dixit), who inspires, arouses, and confuses the common man.

Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities second time with Tabu

While directing movies he directed whole day and painted at nights so that funds could be raised for filmmaking. Hussain was able to fetch 7 crores in a period of 3 months.

Muse / Subjects

Hussain loved Bollywood films. He watched Devdas starring Madhuri Dixit, 10 times.

Amrita Rao impressed the legendary painter with her simplicity in Vivah so much that he happened to watch the film nine times.

Vidya Balan became the next to flutter his heart. Her raunchy-rustic role in Ishqiya amazed Husain so much that he was planning to make a film while he was in Qatar.

Not just that, his love for Sooraj Barjatya films and Amrita led him to organise a grand farewell to Vivaah at a famous cinema hall in Dubai. Husain had also planned a series of paintings showcasing moments of Vivah.

There were great women to whom Husain was emotionally attached, the way a son is attached to a mother. One was the Nobel laureate, Mother Teresa.


Husain life was full of controversies. According to him painting nude portraits of Hindu goddesses was a medium of conversation which depicted his inner emotions and feelings for different subjects.

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”

After 25 years of painting controversies, he was highly opposed by the Indian peoples. His house was attacked and paintings were destroyed, but Hussain never apologised for what he did. As a result, he left India for self-exile and moved to Dubai.

Eight criminal complaints were filed against him for hurting public sentiments through his “obscene” paintings.

In 1998, Husain’s house was attacked by Hindu groups like Bajrang Dal and art works were vandalised. The leadership of Shiv Sena endorsed the attack. Twenty-six Bajrang Dal activists were arrested by the police.

Protests against Husain also led to the closure of an exhibition in London, England.

In February 2006, Husain was charged with “hurting sentiments of people” because of his nude portraits of Hindu gods and goddesses.

Yet again, in 2006 he was charged with hurting sentiments of people because of his controversial painting Bharatmata and Husain went into exile.

After numerous incidents of his paintings being taken down from exhibitions, MF Husain was left with no choice but to leave the country. Later, he was honoured with Qatar citizenship.

The All-India Ulema Council complained that the Qawwali song Noor-un-Ala-Noor from the film Meenaxi was blasphemous. It argued that the song contained words directly taken from the Quran.

Self-exile and last days

For the last years of his life, Husain lived in Doha and London, staying away from India, but expressing a strong desire to return, despite fears of being killed.

Although he was Indian by heart, he requested his family to bury him in the country he would die. He was buried in Brookwood Cemetery on 10 June 2011.

India’s former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh said his death was a “national loss”, and India’s former President Pratibha Patil said his death “left a void in the world of art.”

Awards and Achievements

Padma Shri (1966)
Padma Bhushan (1973)
Padma Vibhushan (1991)

In 1967, M.F Hussain made his first film, Through the Eyes of a Painter. It was shown at the Berlin Film Festival and won a Golden Bear short film award.

At the age of 92 Husain was to be given the prestigious Raja Ravi Varma award by the government of Kerala

M.F Hussain was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1986.

In 2010, he was honoured Qatar citizenship.

In 2010, the Jordanian Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre named Hussain as one of the 500 most influential Muslims.

So huge is the popularity of his paintings, that Maqbool Fida Husain was once called as the ‘Picasso of India’ by the Forbes magazine.

Wrapping Up

No doubt M.F Hussain was a brilliant artist but his motives regarding some paintings seem to be quite doubtful. Analyzing his works it is clear that whom he hated was painted nude on his canvas. In one of his paintings, he has shown, Mahatma Gandhi, Mao, Einstein and Hitler together, Mahatma Gandhi’s head is cut off and Einstein and Mao are fully clothed while Hitler has been shown fully nude. Most surprising part is that Paintings of Muslims and other personalities are fully clothed in his paintings, for example, in the painting of his own mother and daughter both are fully clothed. Similarly, Paigamber, Galib and Iqbal are fully clothed in their respective paintings.

His paintings of hindu gods –

1. Nude Seeta sitting on Nude Ravana’s thigh confronted by Nude Hanuman.
2. Nude Seeta sitting on long tail of a nude Hanuman.
3. Nude Hanuman pointing his erect genitals at a nude woman.
4. Nude Ravana in front of Hanuman.
5. Shiva watching as Parvati copulates with a bull (Nandi) on Shivratri.
6. Goddess Durga copulating with a tiger (her vehicle).
7. Nude goddess Lakshmi on the head of nude Ganesha.
8. Nude Saraswati.
9. Nude Krishna with hands and feet cut off.

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