India’s “Picasso” Dies at 95

Posted June 9th, 2011 at 5:00 pm (UTC-5)
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India's most eminent artist, Maqbool Fida Husain, sometimes called “the Indian Picasso,” died Thursday in London at the age of 95.

Indian President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and artists and ordinary Indians paid tribute to Husain after news of his death spread across the country.

Husain began his career in India as a Bollywood poster artist and later developed a style combining Indian traditions with a Western-influenced Cubist style. He was also known for avoiding shoes, preferring to go barefoot.

But in 2006, the Muslim artist went into self-imposed exile in Dubai after being targeted by Hindu hardliners angered by his depiction of Hindu deities in the nude and India as a nude woman. Angry Hindu radical groups called the paintings an insult to their religion and offered a reward for his death.

Husain's decision to leave his homeland raised a debate about artistic freedom and tolerance in India. He refused to comment on the controversy, saying he remained deeply rooted to India and was living abroad only to do his work.

Among those who spoke up in Husain's defense was the Supreme Court, which said nudity is common in Indian art and should not be regarded as an obscenity.