R.I.P. MF Husain

MF_Hussain_2_1916983f In The Telegraph:

The artist, whose full name was Maqbool Fida Husain but who was popularly known as “MF”, began his career in the 1940s as a poster artist for the Bollywood film industry. He rose to prominence after Independence and was later hailed as “India’s Picasso”. His paintings and drawings are eagerly sought by India’s new rich, and in 2005 he became the first living Indian artist to command $1 million for a painting. In early 2008, his Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12, a large diptych, fetched $1.6 million, setting a world record at a sale of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, New York.

Husain was a master of vibrant colour and dynamic movement, and his boldly-drawn, figurative compositions, often featuring horses or women, bore the clear influence of artists such as Chagall and Kandinsky, but combined western modernism with classical Indian folk art traditions. In India no fewer than four museums are dedicated to his work and, though less well known outside India, from the 1950s his work was widely exhibited in Europe and America. In 2008 the Serpentine Gallery included several of his paintings in an exhibition of modern Indian artists.

Husain’s reputation was undoubtedly enhanced by his striking, ascetic looks and his mild eccentricity. With his free-flowing white beard and hair, unshod feet peeping out beneath impeccably-tailored Hermes suits, and “baton” (an oversized paintbrush modelled on a type devised by Matisse), he cut an instantly recognisable figure in India’s art world. His gentle, softly-spoken, watchful manner commanded attention and respect.

In India, he was seldom out of the news. There was a story of how once, being chauffeured to the airport to catch an international flight from Calcutta, he suddenly ordered his driver to pull over. Stepping from the car, Husain settled himself under a nearby tree for a relaxing afternoon nap. Duly missing his flight, he returned to Calcutta, apparently unperturbed. Throughout the Nineties, Indian public life was enlivened by accounts of his obsession with the Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit (aka India’s “Oomph Queen’’), whom he adopted as his muse and featured in a film, Gaja Gamini, which he financed himself to the tune of £2 million.