A brush with genius, India’s most renowned living artist finds inspiration in the Mahabharata, M. F. Husain

15 08 2008

M.F. Husain, photograph

Maqbool Fida Husain, more popularly known as, M. F. Husain, is India’s most renowned living artist. During a career that has spanned almost 70 years, his richest source of inspiration has been the vast cultural landscape of his native land. According to Forbes magazine, he has been called the “Picasso of India.” Two years ago, one of Husain’s works broke records when it fetched $2 million dollars in a private sale to a London buyer.

As a child, Hussain learned the art of calligraphy and loved to read poetry. After painting countryside landscapes, Hussain decided to move to Mumbai to make his career in art and earned his living by painting billboards for feature films. An award he won at the 1947 exhibition of the Bombay Art Society marked the beginning of a vibrant colorful career for this art maestro.

M. F. , who is a Muslim, has generated criticism from some quarters because of the manner in which he has portrayed Hindu gods and goddesses. Husain always asserts the influence of Indian art styles on his work and in his quest for new modes of artistic expression, the artist has found transcendent imagery, compelling visions, and universal significance in the Mahabharata.  Don’t know what Mahabharata is? (We’ll help you out).

Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. With more than 74,000 verses, long prose passages, and about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahabharata deals with Hindu mythology and is one of the longest epic poems in the world.


M. F. Husain first painted a series of works about the epic in 1971. For him, the central paradox is the competition and jealousies that divide members of a family, forcing them to choose sides, and moving them all inexorably towards an Armageddon.

He has built four Indian museums to contain his work. “My bank balance is always zero!” he laughs.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Kurukshetra.jpg

Image from: http://www.asianart.com/articles/husain/full/figure1.jpg

Title from: http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=6d5f40c7-7033-4eca-9434-d4b27b29313c&ParentID=a72f998f-0098-446f-889a-8e2c3bc183ab&&Headline=A+brush+with+genius