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Jehangir Sabavala, Indian artist, died he was 89.

Jehangir Sabavala  was an Indian painter died he was 89..

(23 August 1922 – 2 September 2011)

Early life and education

Jehangir Ardeshir Sabavala was born to an affluent Parsi family in Bombay (now Mumbai), India.[5][6] His mother belonged to the aristocratic Cowasjee Jehangir family. He studied at Cathedral and John Connon School, Elphinstone College, and earned a diploma from Mumbai’s Sir J. J. School of Art in 1944. Thereafter he went to Europe and studied at the Heatherley School of Fine Art, London, (1945-47), and in Academie Andre Lhote, Paris (1948-51), the Académie Julian (1953-54), and finally at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in 1957. 


Sabavala did not allow archives of his 12 scrapbooks on materials from the early 1940s to the 2000 online.[8] Arun Khopkar’s film on Sabavala’s life and art, Colours of Absence, won the National Award in 1994.[9] In 2010, another film about his life was made, The Inheritance of Light: Jehangir Sabavala. His last solo exhibition, ‘Ricorso’, was held at the Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, in 2008.[10]

Personal life

Jehangir was married to Shirin Dastur, whom he met at the London School of Economics.


  • Padma Shri by the Government of India – 1977 [11]
  • Lalit Kala Ratna, the Fellowship of Lalit Kala Akademi, India’s National Academy of Arts, by the President of India – 2007

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M. F. Husain, Indian artist, died from a heart attack he was , 95.

Maqbool Fida Husain commonly known as MF, was an eminent painter of Indian origin, although a Qatari national at the time of his death  died from a heart attack he was , 95. He has been widely regarded as the “Picasso of India” and has influenced a whole generation of artists in the country.

 (17 September 1915 – 9 June 2011)

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.[4]
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.[5]


Husain first became well-known as an artist in the late 1940s. In 1947, he joined the Progressive Artists’ Group, founded by Francis Newton Souza. This was a clique of young artists who wished to break with the nationalist traditions established by the Bengal school of art and to encourage an Indian avant-garde, engaged at an international level. In 1952, his first solo exhibition was held at Zürich and over the next few years, his work was widely seen in Europe and the US In 1955, he was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri award by the Government of India.[6]


In 1967, he made his first film, Through the Eyes of a Painter. It was shown at the Berlin Film Festival and won a Golden Bear(Short Film).[7][8][9]
M. F. Husain was a special invitee along with Pablo Picasso at the Sao Paulo Biennial in 1971.[8] He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1973 and was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1986.[8] He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1991.


Husain went on to become the highest paid painter in India. His single canvases have fetched up to $2 million at a recent Christie’s auction.[10]
He has also worked (produced & directed) s few movies, including Gaja Gamini (with his muse Madhuri Dixit who was the subject of a series of his paintings which he signed Fida). The film was intended as a tribute to Ms. Dixit herself.[11] In this film she can be seen portraying various forms and manifestations of womanhood including the muse of Kalidasa, the Mona Lisa, a rebel, and musical euphoria. He went on to make Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities (with Tabu). His autobiography is being made into a movie tentatively titled The Making of the Painter, starring Shreyas Talpade as the young Husain.[12]
The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) (USA, Massachusetts) showed a solo exhibition from 4 November 2006 to 3 June 2007. It exhibited Husain’s paintings inspired by the Hindu epic, Mahabharata.
At the age of 92 Husain was to be given the prestigious Raja Ravi Varma award by the government of Kerala.[13] The announcement led to controversy in Kerala and some cultural organisations campaigned against the granting of the award and petitioned the Kerala courts. Sabarimala spokesperson, Rahul Easwar, went to Kerala High Court and it granted an interim order to stay the granting of the award until the petition had been disposed of.[14]
In early 2008, Husain’s Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12, a large diptych, from the Hindu epic, fetched $1.6 million, setting a world record at Christie’s South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale.[15]
His name was included in the list of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World,[16] issued by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan.
For the last years of his life he lived in Dubai and London, staying away from India, but expressing a strong desire to return, despite fears of arrest.[17]


 Portrayal of Hindu deities in nude

Indifferent to both religion and politics, Husain, a Muslim by upbringing, treated the gods and goddesses of Hinduism as visual stimuli rather than deities, depicting them unclothed and often in sexually suggestive poses.[18] This earned him the bitter hatred of Hindu nationalist groups, which beginning in the 1990s mounted a campaign of intimidation and violence against him.[4][19] The paintings in question were created in 1970, but did not become an issue until 1996, when they were printed in Vichar Mimansa, a Hindi monthly magazine, which published them in an article headlined “M.F. Husain: A Painter or Butcher”.[4] In response, eight criminal complaints were filed against him. In 2004, Delhi High Court dismissed these complaints of “promoting enmity between different groups … by painting Hindu goddesses – Durga and Sarswati, that was later compromised by Hindus.”[20][21][22]
In 1998 Husain’s house was attacked by Hindu groups like Bajrang Dal and art works were vandalised. The leadership of Shiv Sena endorsed the attack. Twenty-six Bajrang Dal activists were arrested by the police.[23] Protests against Husain also led to the closure of an exhibition in London, England.
In February 2006, Husain was charged with “hurting sentiments of people” because of his nude portraits of Hindu gods and goddesses.[24]

Mother India

In the 6 February 2006 issue, India Today, a national English weekly published an advertisement titled “Art For Mission Kashmir”. This advertisement contains a painting of Bharatmata (Mother India) as a nude woman posed across a map of India with the names of Indian States on various parts of her body. The exhibition was organised by Nafisa Ali of Action India (NGO) and Apparao Art Gallery.[25][citation needed][26] Organizations like Hindu Jagruti Samiti and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) have protested persistently against Husain displaying the painting on the websites and even in exhibitions in north Europe. As a result, Husain apologized and promised to withdraw the painting from an auction, which was later sold for Rs 80 lakh in the auction.[27][28] The painting later appeared on Husain’s official website.

 Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities

Husain’s film Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities[29] was pulled out of cinemas a day after some Muslim organisations raised objections to one of the songs in it.[30] The All-India Ulema Council complained that the Qawwali song Noor-un-Ala-Noor was blasphemous. It argued that the song contained words directly taken from the Quran. The council was supported by Muslim organisations like the Milli Council, All-India Muslim Council, Raza Academy, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind and Jamat-e-Islami. Husain’s son stated that the words were a phrase referring to divine beauty that were being sung by the central character played by Tabu. He said there was no intention to offend. Following the wave of protests the enraged artist withdrew his movie from cinemas. The film was well received by the critics, however, and went on to win various awards.

Leaving India, Qatar nationality and projects

A series of cases were brought against Husain and a court case related to the alleged obscene depiction of Hindu goddesses in his paintings resulted in issuing a non-bailable warrant against him after he failed to respond to summons. There were also reportedly death threats.[31][32][33]
Husain, who left India stating that “matters are so legally complicated that I have been advised not to return home”,[34] had living abroad self-exile since 2006.[35] He had expressed a strong desire to come back, despite fears that he may be arrested in connection with the cases against him.[35] Later a recent Supreme Court order suspended an arrest warrant for Husain.[36] In absence of dual citizenship, Union Home Secretary, GK Pillai, said that MF Husain was free to come back and would be provided security if he requested it.[37]
Qatari nationality was conferred upon him at the instance of the modernizing Qatar’s ruling family and had been living in Doha, spending his summers in London. He traveled freely except to India. His work in Qatar was mostly towards two large projects, the history of Indian civilization and the history of Arab civilization, the latter was commissioned by Qatar’s first lady – Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Missned, wife of the Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The works are to be housed in a museum in Doha.[38]

Supporters and critics

The artistic community was supportive[39] as well as critical. Krishan Khanna, one of Husain’s contemporaries, stated that “It’s not just Husain’s but the entire artist community’s lives which are at stake. Anybody and everybody can file a case against us now. Anyone can infringe upon our lives”. Others who expressed anger at the “vicious campaigns” against Husain, include filmmaker Saeed Mirza, social activist Nafisa Ali, theatre personality M. K. Raina and a host of other artistes, art critics and art gallery owners. Salil Tripathi, writing in the International Herald Tribune, notes that Hindu goddesses have regularly been portrayed in the nude by Hindu artists. Tripathi asserted that,[40]

Other Indian artists expressed criticism. Satish Gujral went on record to ask Husain whether he will be bold enough to treat icons of Islam in the same manner.[41] However Gujral stated that he deeply regretted the way Husain was treated and forced into an exile because of what he terms “the mob culture”.[42][dead link] According to a senior Hindu artist and former President, Bombay Art Society, Gopal Adivrekar,[43]

Writing in The Pioneer, Chandan Mitra wrote,[43][44]

In response to the controversy, Husain’s admirers petitioned the government to grant Husain the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest award. According to Shashi Tharoor, who supported the petition, it praised Husain because his “life and work are beginning to serve as an allegory for the changing modalities of the secular in modern India – and the challenges that the narrative of the nation holds for many of us. This is the opportune and crucial time to honour him for his dedication and courage to the cultural renaissance of his beloved country.”[45]
On his part Husain stated that Hindu leaders have not spoken a word against his paintings, and they should have been the first ones to have raised their voice.[46]
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray said[47][48][49]


M F Husain died, aged 95, on 9 June 2011, following a heart attack. He had been unwell for several months.[50] He died at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, and was buried in the city on 10 June 2011.[51] 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.”[52] The actress Shabana Azmi called him an “iconoclastic painter, a wonderful human being and a very good friend”.[53][54][55] 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”.[56]


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