The Taj Mahal Palace, Colaba 16 December – 28 March 2023 Monday to Saturday, 11 am – 7 pm
He was the colossus of the Indian art world whose reign over twentieth-century modern art remains unparalleled. M. F. Husain (1913-2011) was the face of Indian modernism and owned it completely. Having started out as a painter of billboards in Bombay, he became its unchallenged monarch as a member of the influential Progressive Artists’ Group in 1947. He claimed the first National Award instituted by the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1955, and went on to become India’s most celebrated artist. In a practice that spanned over seventy years, Husain was playful, experimental, provocative, controversial—but never mediocre.
Popularly recognised for his paintings of horses, Husain began his career with a range of subaltern subjects that brought dignity to the lives of ordinary people— from farmers to performers—and captured their contribution to the making of an extraordinary civilisational culture. From depictions of the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata to mythology and history, from poignant portraits of Mother Teresa to his sardonic study of the Raj, from his interest in India’s syncretic traditions to his visualisation of theology, Husain mastered it in a way no other artist ever managed to. He spent the last years of his life in self-exile from India without forsaking his idea of the country which remained his true inspiration. There will truly never be another like him.
This selection of paintings reflects the diversity of his interests and talent. It includes works from the earliest phases of his career to the more recent in a range of mediums covering the encaustic, his canvases as well as his watercolours. Also included are his wooden ‘toys’ created as part of children’s nursery furniture. As eclectic as this selection is, it allows the viewer to grasp the triumph of the artist’s genius that blazed across the Indian art firmament for the artist to claim: ‘When I begin to paint, hold the sky in your hands as the stretch of my canvas is unknown to me.’