M. F. Husain


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Indian painter and film-maker, one of the best known and almost certainly the most controversial figure in the contemporary art of his country. Born in Pandha-pur, Maharashtra, he studied at the School of Art in Indore in 1937, then worked as a painter of cinema hoardings and as a toy designer. In 1947 he joined Souza's Progressive Artists' Group in Bombay, which he saw as part of the independence movement, attacking both the British-dominated Royal Academy and conservative revivalist art. Husain's own view of Western modernist art is that India had already passed the stages of Impressionism and Cubism and therefore had no need of them, saying that ‘they [the West] took it [modernist art] from Japan and from Africa’ (Frontline, August 9–22, 1997). Nonetheless, critics have seen the influence of European painters such as Matisse, Picasso, and Klee. It is not the style of his art but the subject which has made the strongest impact in India. He was the frequent target of threats and legal attacks, especially from right-wing Hindu groups (Husain is a Muslim), on the grounds of ‘obscene’ treatment of sacred themes. The most contentious of all has been Mother India (2006), which visualizes the country as a naked female. The artist was forced to move to Dubai. He won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1968 for Through the Eyes of a Painter.

Subjects: Art.

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