India’s Picasso Dies in Exile

by    /  June 14, 2011  / No comments

M. F. Hussain, the 95-year-old exiled artist also known as “India’s Picasso,” died of a heart attack in a London hospital on June 9. Two months before, TIME listed Hussain as one of the world’s top-ten persecuted artists.

In the 1940s Hussain became an icon in the Indian art world as one of the first artists to break with the country’s traditional painting style. In the 1990s his work generated serious socio-religious controversy that eventually caused the Muslim painter to flee his native country after suffering persecution from right-wing Hindutva groups.

M.F. Hussain’s painting Mother India.

These radicals disapproved of his nude depictions of Hindu goddesses and also opposed his painting “Mother India” in which a map of India resembles a naked woman. These works were typical of Hussain, who incorporated diverse themes including Hinduism and Sufi mysticism into his paintings. Hussain’s opponents picketed and vandalized his work, sent him death threats, attacked his home, and charged him with hurting religious sentiments. The artist consequently fled India in 2006 and accepted citizenship from Qatar in 2010. The Indian government has received criticism for its handling of the situation. Hussain never returned to his native India, not even in death; he was buried in London on June 10, 2011.

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