M F Hussain – Picasso of India



MF Hussain is given the title of ‘Picasso Of India’ by the Forbes magazine. He is one of the best known artist in the country. But this 92 year artist is most popularly known to the common man as the painter fan of the Bollywood actress, Madhuri Dixit. He had studied in J.J School of Art and started his career by painting cinema hoardings which earned just a few rupees.

Famous for his stunning paintings of Indian women, and his habit of getting into controversies, he is also a multi-faceted person, having made movies, and served in India’s Parliament. This talented artist rose to international fame from a humble beginning and now has become the highest paid painter in India. His single canvases have fetched up to 2 million dollars.

His Work

It can be said that he got his first break in the 1947 annual exhibition of the Bombay Art Society. His painting Sunhera Sansaar was exhibited and appreciated. 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. Some of his best known works are called the Sufi paintings.

During the 80’s, 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.

His Personality

Husain had become a photogenic icon, and the newspapers loved him. He is known to go around everywhere barefoot. 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.

Besides painting, he has also made a film ‘Through the Eyes of a Painter’ in 1967 which went on to win the Golden Bear Award in Berlin Film Festival. He has made several short films since then. On account of his immense contribution to Indian art, the Government of India honoured him with the Padmashree in 1966, Padma Bhushan Award in 1973 and the Padma Vibhushan award in 1989, all prestigious civilian awards.