Tag Archive for 'Maqbool Fida Husain'

A portrait of India’s tolerance

The country’s speech restrictions didn’t allow M.F. Husain to paint in peace. Salil Tripathi in the Wall Street Journal:

Maqbool Fida Husain was India’s most celebrated painter, and his death in London last week was front-page news across the subcontinent. However, toward the end of his life, Husain had trouble finding galleries willing to show his work. He lived in Dubai, Doha or London for most of the last two decades because he couldn’t paint in peace in his own country, even becoming a Qatari national last year.

Husain’s story says much about modern India. The troubles started in 1996, when the magazine Vichar Mimansa (“Discussion of Thoughts”) published a decades-old sketch that showed a nude Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning. That discovery electrified Hindu activists, who began filing lawsuits against the painter for hurting their sentiments.

These activists were able to persecute Husain by taking advantage of laws intended to prevent the incitement of religious hatred. Though the Indian constitution guarantees freedom of expression, it allows “reasonable restrictions” to safeguard “the interests of the sovereignty and integrity” of the country and “public order, decency or morality.” The penal code makes it a crime “to outrage religious feelings” and also outlaws “promoting enmity” between different groups on the basis of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language—and the all-inclusive “etc.”

Fringe Hindu groups claimed to have been offended by the artist’s work, and pressured the authorities to initiate proceedings. Indian courts often throw such cases out, but there were multiple cases against him. When a few of them reached the Delhi High Court on appeal, it ruled in Husain’s favor. So did the Supreme Court in a similar case. More:

Who brushed out Husain?

In the Hindustan Times, Vir Sanghvi examines the issues that led to the exile of India’s foremost artist, Maqbool Fida Husain who died recently in London.

Now that we are so busy flogging ourselves over our failure to allow M.F. Husain to return to India, this might be a good time to examine the issues that led to Husain’s exile from our shores. Otherwise, we will lose ourselves in paying fulsome tributes without understanding why the artist was hounded out of India. And other artists will continue to suffer the same fate.

As long as I can remember, Husain has used Hindu motifs and figures in his work. Though he was born a Muslim, he was not particularly religious and regarded himself as part of India’s secular tradition, drawing inspiration from all aspects of Indian tradition and life. For instance, his famous Mother Teresa series in which the Catholic missionary was portrayed as an angel of mercy would probably have scandalised the likes of Osama Bin Laden. But for Husain, religion and religious figures were merely an aspect of a nation’s cultural heritage and its everyday life. more

Below, Riz Khan’s Al Jazeera interview with MF Husain

Also read:

Shobhaa De on MFH in The Times of India: ‘All I want is a Mumbai falooda’

“Where is your paintbrush?” I asked Husain Saab when I met him in room number 6 on the fourth floor of the Royal Brompton Hospital, situated in a leafy area of London. This was just two days ago.

He shrugged and smiled wanly. Almost like he had put away his paintbrush forever. Frail in health but robust in spirit, he turned away from the dinner tray brought in by a cheerful nurse and said, “I can’t eat this food. All I want is a falooda from Mumbai.”

And Georgina Maddox in The Indian Express

Not just modern art, but Indian

Despite its having disbanded 60 years ago, the Progressive Artists Group of India continues to make waves, not to mention fetch high prices on the market. Gayatri Rangachari Shah in The New York Times:

In New Delhi, a minor fracas at the India Art Summit in January brought into focus the enduring legacy of contemporary India’s most famous artists’ collective, the Progressive Artists Group.

One of the group’s original members, Maqbool Fida Husain, 95, drew the ire of a few Hindu nationalists for his works mounted by Delhi Art Gallery. The nationalists threatened to disrupt the fair to protest what they consider Mr. Husain’s disrespectful depictions of Hindu goddesses.

Although the sidebar drama ended peacefully, with the local authorities ensuring the security of the fair, Mr. Husain’s ongoing notoriety only further cemented the Progressives’ relevance. Despite disbanding 60 years ago, the group continues to make waves, not to mention fetch high prices on the market. (The Delhi Art Gallery’s show on the group, called “Continuum,” runs through March 30.)

Founded in 1947, the Progressive Artists Group originally consisted of six artists who wanted to “look at the world from an Indian way, not a British way,” according to Sayed Haider Raza, 89, who, besides Mr. Husain, is the only other living member of the original group. The Progressives also included Francis Newton Souza, an outspoken figure credited with founding the group; Krishnaji Howlaji Ara; Hari Ambadas Gade; and Sadanand Krishnaji Bakre, the group’s only sculptor. Other noted modern artists later became associated with the group, including Vasudeo Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, Mohan Samant, Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta and Krishen Khanna.

Of the original six, it is Mr. Husain, Mr. Raza and Souza who command the highest prices at international auctions. Mr. Raza’s “Saurashtra” sold for a record $3.4 million last year at Christie’s, for example, and top lots by Souza and Mr. Husain have sold in past auctions for $2.5 million and $1.6 million, respectively. More:

Exiled painter Husain ready to go home to India

From the National:

hussain_paintingDubai: The Indian painter Maqbool Fida Husain, who exiled himself to the UAE four years ago after he found himself facing criminal charges, said yesterday he was ready to return home at “any moment” following reports New Delhi was trying to help him do so.

Mr Husain, 94, described by critics as “the Picasso of India”, has repeatedly expressed a desire to return to India since charges were brought against him over a series of paintings, which included the depiction of a naked woman, in the shape of India, kneeling.

The Bharat Mata – Mother India – paintings sparked death threats and protests by right-wing Hindus. Mobs attacked Husain’s home in Mumbai.

The painter, whose work has sold for as much as US$1.6 million (Dh5.8m), said: “At last, they have taken this step after years of complete silence. More:

An artist in exile tests India’s democratic ideals

Maqbool Fida Husain’s case illustrates how freedom of expression has frequently come under fire in India. Somini Sengupta in the New York Times:

Maqbool Fida Husain in one of his homes in Dubai where he now lives. NYT photo

Maqbool Fida Husain in one of his homes in Dubai where he now lives. NYT photo

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Maqbool Fida Husain, India’s most famous painter, is afraid to go home.

Mr. Husain is a Muslim who is fond of painting Hindu goddesses, sometimes portraying them nude. That obsession has earned him the ire of a small but organized cadre of Hindu nationalists. They have attacked galleries that exhibit his work, accused him in court of “promoting enmity” among faiths and, on one occasion, offered an $11 million reward for his head.

In September, the country’s highest court offered him an unexpected reprieve, dismissing one of the cases against him with the blunt reminder that Hindu iconography, including ancient temples, is replete with nudity. Still, the artist, 93 and increasingly frail, is not taking any chances. For two years, he has lived here in self-imposed exile, amid opulently sterile skyscrapers. He intends to remain, at least for now. “They can put me in a jungle,” Mr. Husain said gamely. “Still, I can create.”