MF Husain, R.I.P.

This week has seen the passing of one of the world’s most legendary artists — a painter who was as celebrated and vilified in India as he was unknown in America.  His name was MF Husain (also spelled Hussain).

Husain, who often was called “India’s Picasso,” was a highly controversial figure.  He was an artist who did not shy away from the public or from political or religious themes in his paintings.  Indeed, Husain’s representations of Hindu deities in certain paintings got him into trouble in India, causing his home to be vandalized and eventually leading him to leave India and live in the Middle East.  He died in London.

Husain’s artwork is quite interesting, although it is not well known in the United States.  His most controversial painting apparently was Mother India, which I have posted with this piece and which shows a naked woman on a map of India.  Conservative Hindus were outraged by the piece and brought lawsuits against Husain for obscenity and sacrilege; the India Supreme Court eventually upheld dismissal of several of the cases because in India there is a deep-rooted tradition of sexual iconography and portraying nudity in artistic work.  Imagine, bringing an obscenity and sacrilege lawsuit based on a painting!