Maqbool Fida Husain commonly known as MF, was an eminent painter of Indian origin, although a Qatari national at the time of his death. He has been widely regarded as the "Picasso of India" and has influenced a whole generation of artists in the country.
Husain was associated with Indian modernism in the 1940s. A dashing, highly eccentric figure who 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 floor of whatever hotel room he happened to be staying in and 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 prolificity by Michael Peschardt of the BBC in one of the last interviews he gave on May 27th, 2011, he replied that "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, Ramayana and to the Hindu pantheon.
His narrative paintings, executed in a modified Cubist style, can be caustic and funny as well as serious and sombre. His themes—usually treated in series—include topics as diverse as Mohandas K. Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the British raj, 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.
Born on September 17, 1915 in Pandharpur in Maharashtra, Husain was mainly a self-taught artist. He made ends meet in his initial days by painting cinema hoardings in Mumbai, paid barely four or six annas per square foot. As soon as he earned a little bit he used to take off for Surat, Baroda and Ahmedabad to paint landscapes. Husain tried other jobs and one of the best paying was a toy factory where he designed and built toys.
M F Husain died, aged 95, on 9 June 2011, following a heart attack. He had been unwell for several months. He died at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery on 10 June 2011. India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh said his death was a "national loss", and India's President Pratibha Patil said his death "left a void in the world of art." The actress Shabana Azmi called him an "iconoclastic painter, a wonderful human being and a very good friend". Talking about his self-imposed exile and death outside of India painter Akbar Padamsee said that it was a "pity that a painter as important as Husain had to die outside his own country because of a crowd of miscreants".