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Central & South Asia
Prominent Indian artist MF Hussain dies
Maqbool Fida Hussain, the celebrated painter often described as India's Picasso, dies at the age of 95.
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2011 14:47
Hussain's pieces were status symbols for India's wealthy elite, with price tags worth millions of dollars [GALLO/GETTY]

MF Hussain, an artist who rose to become India's most sought-after painter before going into self-imposed exile during an uproar over nude images of Hindu icons, has died.

Hussain died at the Royal Brompton hospital in London on Thursday at the age of 95, the CNN-IBN television channel quoted a friend, Arun Vadehra, as saying.

Hussain's lawyer, Akhil Sibal, confirmed the death to the AP news agency.

Often described as India's Picasso, Hussain first became well-known in the late 1940s, as part of a group of artists, headed by Francis Newton Souza, who broke with traditional Indian painting styles.

He became especially well known for paintings of horses earlier in his career.

Self-imposed exile

Hussain moved to Dubai in 2006 after receiving death threats from Hindu hard-liners in India over nude pictures he painted of Hindu goddesses.

Some of the artwork that angered the Hindu right had been around since the 1970s but came to their notice in the 1990s.

The most controversial painting shows a nude woman on her knees, creating the shape of India's geographic borders, often depicted as "Mother India" in popular arts, folklore and literature.

It caused an outcry among hard-line Hindu groups that said associating India with nudity was disrespectful.

Several legal cases were brought against him. His depiction of Hindu goddesses in the nude also provoked anger among some Hindus, especially because Hussain is a Muslim.

MF Hussain spoke to Al Jazeera's Riz Khan on the programme, One on One, last year

Hussain spoke of a desire to return home during several interviews in recent years. Last year, he was granted citizenship in the Gulf state of Qatar.

The artist, whose full name was Maqbool Fida Hussain, started out as a poster artist for India's prolific Bollywood film industry.

Decades later, his paintings and even his simple pencil drawings became status symbols for India's wealthy elite, with his works commanding price tags running into millions of dollars.

Hussain almost never wore anything on his feet. With his free flowing white beard and hair, he was an instantly recognisable figure in India's art world.

Well-known actress Shabana Azmi, a close family friend of the artist, said that she was "deeply, deeply saddened", to learn of Hussain's death.

She described him as an "iconoclastic painter, a wonderful human being and a very good friend".

Source:
Agencies
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