M.F. Husain, The 'Picasso Of India,' Died In Exile

Jun 10, 2011

The Times of India is asking today, "did [the] political class let down Husain?"

That question is one sign of the self-reflection underway in India after word of artist M.F. Husain's death Thursday in London.

"India's most famous artist ... often referred to as the Picasso of India," was 95, the Los Angeles Times writes.

It's what happened during Husain's last five years that is prompting much discussion. As Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep tells us, Husain's life story "underlines the difficulty and contradictions of the world's largest democracy."

For much of the artist's life, he was celebrated. As a "life and times" photo gallery put together by the Times of India shows, Husain gained fame not only in India but around the world. And he turned his talents to movies, earning the respect of many in Bollywood — where the Hindustan Times says many are "sad and furious" that "the country meted out such treatment to him that he could not come back to India before breathing his last."

It was in the mid-'90s when some of Husain's paintings earned the wrath of some Hindus. His house was attacked and Husain was sued by "outraged conservatives," the L.A. Times notes.

In 2004, the Times writes, Husain's painting of Bharatmata ("Mother India") "depicted a nude woman posing across a map of the country with the names of Indian states on her body, leading to legal charges that he'd 'hurt the sentiments of people,' prompting a warrant and his decision to turn his back on India." Husain left two years later, never to return.

Now, the Times of India says, many are asking if more should have been done to ensure Husain would be safe if he came home:

"According to Chandigarh-based artist Shiv Singh, the government should have shown more resolve to ensure that Husain came back to the country. 'It was the full responsibility of the government. He was not an ordinary man, ' ... Singh, former chairman of Chandigarh Lalit Kala Academy, said in an interview."

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