MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN (1915 – 2011)

Born on September 17, 1915, in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, India.

Commonly known as M. F., Husain was an eminent Indian painter. Widely regarded as the “Picasso of India,” he is arguably the most recognizable figure of modern and contemporary Indian art, influencing a whole generation of artists in the country. A self-taught artist, Husain moved to Mumbai at an early age and began his artistic career by painting the billboards for cinemas. He recalled, “We were paid barely four or six annas per square foot. That is, for a 6x10 feet canvas, we earned a few rupees. And apart from the New Theatre distributor, the others did not pay us at all. As soon as I earned a little bit, I used to take off for Surat, Baroda and Ahmedabad to paint landscapes.”

Husain became associated with Indian modernism in the 1940s. A dashing, highly eccentric figure dressed in impeccably tailored suits, he went barefoot and brandished an extra-long paintbrush as a slim cane. He never maintained a studio, but he spread his canvases out on the floors of whatever hotel room he happened to be staying in, always paying for damages when he checked out. He created four museums to showcase his work, and had a collection of classic sports cars. Enormously prolific, a gifted self-promoter and hard bargainer, he claimed to have produced some 60,000 paintings. When questioned about such prolificacy by Michael Peschardt of the BBC in one of the last interviews he gave on May 27th 2011, he replied, “All this talk about inspiration and moment is nonsense. Excuse us”. He amassed a fortune, but maintained a bank balance of zero. He applied the formal lessons of European modernists like Cézanne and Matisse to scenes from national epics like the Mahabharata and Ramavana, to the Hindu pantheon.

His first exhibition took place in 1947 with his painting Sunhera Sansaar, shown at the annual exhibition of the Bombay Art Society, and Husain decided to stay in India during the Partition in 1947. Between 1948 and 1950, Husain's work caught the public eye in a series of exhibitions across India. Through the fifties and sixties, he traveled outside India, with his first foray into China in 1951. The following year, he had his first solo exhibition in Zurich, and so began a series of exhibitions across Europe and the United States. In 1966, the Government of India awarded him the Padmashree.

Over the following decades, Husain's fame spread and was glorified by what was deemed to be a rather controversial approach to his art. 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 over-painting them in white. Several of his paintings in the 1990s were named after the film actress Madhuri Dixit, perhaps displaying a childhood obsession originating from his time spent painting billboards. As reported in The Times of India, “The Padma Vibhushan awardee continues to paint events that are topmost on contemporary minds, be it the solar eclipse, the cricket mania or the victory at Kargil.”

Themes in Husain’s work often returned to his cultural roots, but he embraced diverse influences – from the cinematography of Buñuel, to themes that have blended folk, tribal and mythological figures – to create vibrantly contemporary, living art forms in his work. Icons of Indian culture through the ages seek to capture the quintessence of his subjects, like Mother Teresa and Gandhi, to religious icons as Krishna and Saraswati.

His narrative paintings, executed in a modified Cubist style, can be caustic and funny as well as serious and somber. His themes—usually treated in series—also include hallmarks of Indian culture and history, such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the British Empire, and motifs of Indian urban and rural life. One of the most celebrated and internationally recognized Indian artists of the 20th century, he also received recognition as a printmaker, photographer, and filmmaker.

Besides painting, he also made feature films, including Through the Eyes of a Painter (1966), which won the ‘Golden Bear Award’ at the Berlin Film Festival (1967), and was also awarded the ‘Gaja Gamini’ in 2000. The Government of India honored him with the ‘Padma Bhushan’ and the ‘Padma Vibhushan’ awards, both prestigious civilian awards. In 2007, Husain received Honorary Doctorates from Benaras Hindu University, Jamia Millia Islamia University, and Mysore University

The artist passed away on June 9th 2011 in London, UK. However, his vast artistic legacy lives on around the world.

Education

2007 Honorary Doctorates from Benaras Hindu University, Jamia Millia Islamia
University, and Mysore University

Select Solo Exhibitions

2015 Husain at Hundred, Aicon Gallery, New York
2015 M.F. Husain:Paintings and Drawings from a Private Collection, Grosvenor Gallery,
London
2013 Maqbool, Soverign fze, Dubai
2012 Between 2 Lines, organized by Doha Bank and Blue Mosaic in association with
Sotheby’s at Doha Bank Tower, Doha
Gallery Basilio, Bangladesh
2011 – 2012 Presented by ICIA At The Arts Trust, Mumbai
Institute of Contemporary Indian Art (ICIA), Mumbai
2011 A Tribute to MF Husain, Royal Academy of Arts, London
Celebrating Husain, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
2010 M.F. Husain 2010 – The World is my Canvas, organized by Museum of Islamic Art
(MIA), Qatar Foundation and as part of 2010 Arab Capital of Culture
M.F. Husain: Early Masterpieces 1950s–70s, sponsored by the Year of India, the Cogut Center for the Humanities, and the David Winton Bell Gallery at David Winton Bell Gallery, Providence
2006 – 2007 Epic India: Paintings by M.F. Husain, Herwitz Collection of Contemporary Indian
Art, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA
2006 Early Masterpieces 1950-70’s, Asia House Gallery, London
2005 Exhibition of Prints, Collector’s Paradise Gallery, Mumbai
2004 Husain (An Exhibition of Graphic Prints in Honor of M S Subbalakshmi), Lakshana
Museum of Fine Arts, Chennai
2004 And Not Just 88:Husain in Oils’,National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai
‘Husain: Graphic 2004, Pictures and Frames, Mumbai
2003 ’88 Husains in Oils 2003, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
Husain Hieroglyph, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
’88 Husain in Oils, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
Thief of Baghdad, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
’88 Husains in Oils 2003,Gallerie 88, Kolkata
2002 Paintings and Serigraphs by Husain, Sarjan Art Gallery, Baroda
M .F Husain, Limited Edition Graphics and Reproduction, Sakshi Gallery in
association with Archer Art Gallery, Ahmedabad
Madhuri as Saratchandra’s Chandramukhi: The Eternal Enchantress of
Devdas, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai
2000 Paintings, Murals and Drawings, Husain Ki Sarai Collection, New Delhi
1998 Maqbool Fida Husain: The Beacon of Energy, The Window, Mumbai
Husain Now, Centre for International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata
1996 From Sinhasan to Peacock Throne to the Chair of the 21st Century: M. F
Husain and Jehangir Nagree Exhibition of Furniture, organized by The Living Room at Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai
Exhibition of Water Colors and Object Based Works’, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
Screening of Film ‘Gaja Gamini’, along with an exhibition of lithographs and
selected works, New Delhi
1995 Maqbool Fida Husain, Art Today, New Delhi
14 Serigraphs on Madhuri Dixit, Surya Gallery, Hyderabad
A Visual Script of ‘Untitled Film on Madhuri, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
1994 Tapestry Show, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
Oils on Canvas, 31st Anniversary Exhibition, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
1993 Let History Cut Across Me Without Me, organized by Vadehra Art Gallery,
New Delhi at National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi
Civilization, Violence and Pather Panchali, at National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi
1992 Six Days of Live Painting, Tata Centre, Kolkata
1991 Knight Watch, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
Shwetambari, Installation at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
Front Page, Centre for Contemporary art (CCA), New Delhi
1990 Theatre of the Absurd, Installations, New Delhi
1989 Calcutta 300, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
1988 Husain, Hunter Museum of Art, Tennessee, USA
1986 Images of the Raj, Sista’s Art Gallery, Bangalore
1983 Story of a Brush, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
1982 Culture of the Streets, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
1981 Culture of the Streets, Art Heritage, New Delhi
1981 Les Otages – Mere Theresa, Galerie Jourdan, Montreal, Canada
1980 Mother and Child: A Tribute to Mother Teresa, Calcutta Art Gallery, Kolkata
1979 Husain in Malaysia, The Hilton, Kuala Lumpur
1978 Ragmala Paintings, Centaur Hotel, Mumbai
Sufi Paintings, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
Portrait of an Umbrella, Art Heritage, New Delhi
Retrospective, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
1975 Maqbool Fida Husain, Sarla Art Centre, Chennai
1974 Commonwealth Art Centre, London, UK
Moscow Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow
Paintings by Husain, Worcester Art Museum, USA
1973 Retrospective, Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata
Espace Cardin, Paris
1972 Paintings 1971, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
1971 Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi
1969 21 Years of Painting, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
1968 Images of Kerala, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
Six Days of Making: Movements and Moods in Paintings, Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi
1967 New York, Poland and Czechoslovakia
1966 Mumbai
Oberoi Hotel, New Delhi
1965 Drawings: The Arab Image, Gallery Chemould, Mumbai, Kolkata and New
Delhi; Gallery Waisty, Baghdad and Kabul
1964 Dhoomimal Art Gallery, New Delhi
1962 Ashoka Gallery, Kolkata
1962 Mumbai and New Delhi
1961 Ashoka Gallery, Kolkata
Gallery Chemould, Mumbai
1960 – 1961 Gallery Palse, Rome
Kunst Kabinet, curated by Hanna Bekker vom Rath, Frankfurt, Germany
Tokyo
1956 Gallery Palette, Zurich
Gallery Mannes, Prague
1950 Bombay Art Society, Mumbai

Select Group Exhibitions

2015 Approaching Figuration: Pt. 1, Aicon Gallery, New York
2015 Abby Grey and Indian Modernism: Selections from the NYU Art Collection, Grey
Art Gallery, New York University, New York
2014 Shifting the Paradigm, Aicon Gallery, New York
Arrivals & Departures: The Story of Indian Modern Art II, Aicon Gallery, San
Francisco and Palo Alto
Remaking the Modern II, Aicon Gallery, London
Immutable Gaze Pt. I , Aicon Gallery, New York
Post-Picasso:Contemporary Reactions, Museum Picasso of Barcelona, Barcelona
2013 Arrivals & Departures: The Story of Indian Modern Art, Aicon Gallery, San
Francisco and Palo Alto
Pioneers of Modernism, Sovereign FZE, Dubai
Remaking the Modern, Aicon Gallery, London
Ram Kumar and the Bombay Progressives: The Form and the Figure Pt. II, Aicon
Gallery, New York
Past Parallels: The Art of Modern & Pre-Modern India, Aicon Gallery, New York
Ideas of the Sublime, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
The Discerning Eye:Modern Masters, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
The Naked and the Nude: The Body in Indian Modern Art, Delhi Art Gallery, New
Delhi
2012 Iconic Processions, Aicon Gallery, New York
Through the Ages: South Asian Sculpture and Painting from Antiquity to Modernism
(Part 2), Aicon Gallery, New York
Gallery Collection, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
Indian Highway VI, organized in collaboration with the Serpentine Gallery, London, and the Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway at The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) Beijing
Contemporary: A Selection of Modern and Contemporary Art, Sakshi Gallery at The Park, Chennai
Crossings: Time Unfolded, Part 2, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi
2011 – 2012 The Body Unbound, Rubin Museum of Art, New York
Indian Highway, Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome
2011 Continuum, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
Roots in the Air, Branches Below: Modern & Contemporary Art from India,
San Jose Museum of Art, CA
Time Unfolded, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), New Delhi
Celebrations 2011, Kumar Gallery, New Delhi
POP – Progressives on Paper, Aicon Gallery, London
Modern Masters, Aicon Gallery, New York
The Path of the Lotus: Indian Art, Grosvenor Gallery, London
Manifestations VI, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
States of Departure: Progressives to Present Day, Aicon Gallery, London
2010 – 2011 Figure/Landscape: Part Two, Aicon Gallery, London
Figure/Landscape: Part One, Aicon Gallery, New York
Who Has Seen Gandhi?, presented by Tangerine Art Space at Raj Bhavan; Kynkyny Art Gallery and Tangerine Art Space, Bangalore
The Modernists, RL Fine Arts, New York
The Progressives & Associates, Grosvenor Gallery, London
From Miniature to Modern: Traditions in Transition, Rob Dean Art, London in association with Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
Symbols and Metaphors, Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata
Masters of Maharashtra, collection from Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi at Piramal Gallery, National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai
2010 Evolve: 10th Anniversary Show, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai
Art Dubai 2010, presented by Aicon Gallery, New York
Manifestations IV, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
Roots, 25th Anniversary Exhibition of Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai at The Park, Chennai
Celebration 2010, Kumar Art Gallery, New Delhi
2009 – 2010 Master Class, The Arts Trust, Mumbai
2009 Bharat Ratna: Jewels of Modern Indian Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
In Search of the Vernacular, Aicon Gallery, New York
Indian Harvest, presented by Crimson, The Art Resouce, Bangalore at S.G. Private Banking, Singapore
Long Gone & Living Now, Gallerie Mirchandani + Steinreucke, Mumbai
Kalpana: Figurative Art in India, presented by The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) at Aicon Gallery, London
Progressive to Altermodern: 62 Years of Indian Modern Art, Grosvenor Gallery, London
Spirit of India, co-exhibition with S.H. Raza, Kings Road Galleries, London
Armory Show New York, presented by Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
Ltd. Edition, Gallery Threshold, New Delhi
2008 – 2009 Signs Taken for Wonders: Recent Art from India and Pakistan, Aicon Gallery, London
Modern India, presented by Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (IVAM) and Casa
Asia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture at Valencia, Spain
Indian Highway, presented in Collaboration with Astrup Fearnley Museum of
Modern Art, Oslo at Serpentine Gallery, London; Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark
Paz Mandala, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
2008 Winter Moderns, Aicon Gallery, New York and London
Frame Figure Field: 20th Century Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
Multiple Modernities: India, 1905-2005, Philadelphia Museum of Art,
Freedom 2008 – Sixty Years of Indian Independence, Centre for International
Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata
Tales, Reflection and Constructs, Galerie 88, Kolkata
Exhibition of Seri–Prints, Studio Vasant, New Delhi
Moderns, Royal Cultural Centre at Amman, Jordan; organized by Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, with Embassy of India, Amman, Jordan
Harvest 2008, organized by Arushi Arts at The Stainless Gallery, New Delhi
2007 – 2008 From Everyday To The Imagined: Modern Indian Art, Museum of Art, Seoul
National University, Seoul
2007 Epic India: Paintings by M.F. Husain, Peabody Essex Museum,
Massachusetts, USA
From the Vault, Aicon Gallery, London and New York
Gateway Bombay, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA
2006 Pictorial Glimpses, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai
Summer Show, Centre for International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata
M.F. Husain: Early Masterpieces 1950s-70s, Asia House, London
The Moderns Revisited, Grosvenor Vadehra, London
Shadow Lines, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
Making of Divinity, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
2005 Manifestations III, curated by Delhi Art Gallery at Nehru Center, Mumbai,
and Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi.
Drishti/Vision: Indian Contemporary Artists, Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur
Evoking Rasa in Luminous Visions: Indian Art, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester
Ashta Nayak: Eight Pioneers of Indian Art, Aicon Gallery, New York
The Sacred Feminine, Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi
Still Life: The Inscrutable Genre, Art Motif, New Delhi
2004 20 / 20 – A Vision: Looking Back / Looking Forward, Apparao Galleries, Chennai
Ruminations, Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai; The Forum, New Delhi; Windsor Manor Hotel, Bangalore; Museum Gallery, Mumbai
Jiva / Life, Bodhi Art, Singapore
Portrait of a Decade, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
Manifestations II, curated by Delhi Art Gallery at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai and Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi.
Concept and Form, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
2003 Anniversary Master Strokes, Art Musings, Mumbai
Manifestations I, organized by Delhi Art Gallery at World Trade Center, Mumbai and Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi.
2002 Art Musings 2002, Art Musings, Mumbai
Colors of India, organized by Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata at Mumbai
2001 Anniversary Return to Eden, Art Musings, Mumbai
Modern Indian Art, Metropolitan Pavilion, New York
Jubilant Gold: 50 Years of Artists, Artists’ Centre, Mumbai
2000 Distillations, Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata
Timeless Vision: Contemporary Art from the Herwitz Collection, Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee, WI
New Works, The Fine Art Resource, Berlin
1998 Ruminations, Apollo Apparao Galleries, Mumbai
The Window, Mumbai
1997 Indian Painters Having Lives in France, Alliance Francaise, Pondicherry
The Indian Beast, Apparao Galleries, Chennai
Inaugural Exhibition, Art Indus, New Delhi
Tribute to Mother Teressa, Art Indus, New Delhi
The Keehn Collection: Important Paintings of Post Independence India, Bose Pacia, New York
Colors of Independence, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi
1996 Contemporary Indian Paintings: The Chester and Davida Herwitz
Collection, Pt. II, Sotheby’s Auction, New York
Modern and Contemporary Indian Paintings: One Hundred Years, Sotheby’s Auction, London
1995 River of Art, Art Today, New Delhi
Contemporary Indian Paintings: The Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, Pt. I, Sotheby’s Auction, New York
Art India Now: Important Contemporary Artists, Bose Pacia, New York
Mithuna, 91C Jermyn Street, London
1994 Art Today, New Delhi
Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
1993 Reflection and Images, Mumbai
Wounds, Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata
1991 National Exposition of Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Modern Art
(NGMA), New Delhi
Husain, Husain and Husain, Egypt
Remembering Kali Pundole on its 28th Anniversary, Mumbai
State of Art, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
Nine Indian Contemporaries, Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), New Delhi
1988 Festival of India, Takoka Municipal Museum of Art & Meugro Museum of
Art, Tokyo
1987 Indian Drawing Today, Mumbai
Festival of India, Russia
Coups de Couer, Halle de I’lle, Geneva
1986 Indian Art Tomorrow, The Phillips Collections, Washington D.C
Contemporary Indian Art, Grey Art Gallery, New York
1985 – 1986 Festival of India, Exhibition of Contemporary Indian Art, New York University, NY
Indian Art Today: 4 Artists, Washington D.C, USA
Contemporary Art in India, Worcester, USA
Bharat Bhavan Biennale, Bhopal
1985 100 Jahre Indische Malerei, Altes Museum, Berlin
Six Indian Painters, Tate Gallery, London
1982 Indische Kunst Heute, Kunsthalle Darmstadt
Contemporary Indian Art, Festival of India, Royal Academy of Arts, London
India: Myth and Reality, Aspects of Modern Indian Art, Oxford, UK
Modern Indian Paintings, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC.
Six Indian Painters, London
Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
1973 Gallery Chanakya, New Delhi
1972 A Painter Makes a Film, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
1971 São Paulo Biennale, special invitee with Pablo Picasso, Brazil
1970 Art Today II, Ashoka Gallery, Kolkata and Shridharni Gallery, New Delhi
1969 Art Today I, New Delhi
1968 Ahmedabad
1967 25 Years of Paintings seen in Bombay, Mumbai
1966 Commonwealth Art Exhibition, London
Art Now in India, London and Brussels
1964 Indian Paintings Now, London
1962 Asoka Art Gallery, Kolkata
1961 Gallery Chemould, Mumbai
1960 Tokyo Biennale, Japan
1959 São Paulo Biennale, Brazil
Tokyo Biennale, Japan
1958 Eight Painters, International Culture Centre, New Delhi
1955 National Exhibition, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
Venice Biennale, Italy
1953 Venice Biennale, Italy
1951 Salon de Mai, France
1950 Calcutta Group and Progressive Art Group, Kolkata
Bombay Art Society's Salon, Mumbai
1948 – 1956 Group Exhibitions with Progressive Art Group

Cinematography

2011 Pehla Sitara (Writer)
2008 Halla Bol (Thanks, as M.F. Husain)
2004 Meenaxi: Tale of 3 Cities (Director/Writer)
2003 Tehzeeb (Thanks, as M.F. Husain)
2000 Gaja Gamini (Director/Art Department/Writer/Actor)
Fiza (Thanks – as M.F. Husain)
1997 Mohabbat (Actor, as himself)
1991 Henna (Art Department/Paintings); tribute to Raj Kapoor
1967 Through the Eyes of a Painter (Director/Writer)

Awards and Honors

2007 Raja Ravi Varma Award, Government of Kerala
Honorary Doctorates, Benaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi
Honorary Doctorates, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi
Honorary Doctorates, Mysore University, Mysore
2004 Lalit Kala Ratna, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
1997 Aditya Vikram Birla ‘Kalashikkar’ Award for Lifetime Achievement
1991 Padma Vibhushan, Government of India
1973 Padma Bhushan, Government of India
1968 National Award for ‘Best Experimental Film’ Through the Eyes of a Painter, India
1967 Awarded ‘Golden Bear’ for film Through the Eyes of a Painter, International
Berlin Film Festival, Germany; purchased by Museum of Modern Art, NY
1966 Padma Shree, Government of India
1959 International Biennale Award, Tokyo
1955 Padma Shree, Government of India
First Prize at National Exhibition of Art, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
1947 Bombay Art Society, Mumbai.