M.F. Husain Indian, b. 1917


Born in 1917 in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, Maqbool Fida Husain was brought up by his grandfather after the early death of his mother. In 1919 he moved to Indore to be with his father, where in the following years he started drawing and painting on his own, enrolled in a religious education, developed a fascination for cinema and languages, wrote Urdu poetry and developed an interest in calligraphy. Leaving the diploma course at the Indore School of Art, Husain was admitted into the Sir J.J. School of Art, where he was also unable to complete his studies due to the death of his father. He subsequently moved to Bombay, got married, and got a job at a furniture shop designing nursery furniture and wooden toys.


In 1948, Husain left his job to join the Progressive Artists’ Group founded by his contemporary F.N. Souza, after which he fully embraced his yet-to-be prolific career as an artist. In 1950, Husain held his first solo show in Bombay, and travelled extensively around South Asia and Europe fraternizing with renowned artists such as Chi Pei She, Emile Nolde, Paul Cézanne, Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso. In 1954, he painted his landmark ‘Passage of Time’ piece, marking the beginning of his world renowned horse paintings. He went on to hold solo shows in Zurich, Prague, Tokyo, Baghdad, Kabul, Rome, New York, Bombay and New Delhi, and executed a number of life-size murals for Air India and the Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi. In 1963, he painted his first portrait, which was of Jawaharlal Nehru.


In 1959, Husain won an award at the Tokyo biennale, in 1966 was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India, and in 1973 received the Padma Bhushan as well. In 1968, he won a National Award for his direction of the short film Through the Eyes of a Painter, previously receiving the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival. In 1986, he became a member of the Rajya Sabha of Parliament, and in 1989 was awarded the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India.


One of the most famous artists in the world, he is largely credited with modernizing the Indian art movement and remains an influential figure in the contemporary art world today. Husain’s master oeuvre of painting is marked by several specific periods in terms of style as well as subject matter, after his horse series – Mother Teresa, the Mahabharata, Calligraphy and Sufis, Indira Gandhi, Al Arabia and the Raj. His skillful and entrepreneurial expedition into the arts was not limited to the visual arts; Husain also attempted jewellery design, writing and several other feature-length films.


The artist died in 2011, in London, following a heart attack, at the age of ninety-five.