MF Husain’s Masterpieces: Celebrated Icons and Series

 MF Husain’s Masterpieces: Celebrated Icons and Series

June 9 is MF Husain’s death anniversary

Sunny Chandiramani

-MF Husain Maqbool Fida Husain -arguably one of the most influential artists to emerge from India, had a vast and diverse artistic career. In the seven decades of his illustrious artistic career, Husain not only indelibly impacted the Indian art world but also brought global attention to the rich cultural and artistic diversity of India. One of the members of the famed Bombay-based Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG), he gained worldwide recognition through his Cubist style works.

Born in 1915, MF Husain began his artistic career by painting posters for movies and later, creating furniture and children’s toys, which helped him develop his painting skills and earn a living simultaneously. Soon enough, his artistic ability was recognised by FN Souza, another revered modernist, who then introduced him to the PAG, a group that would aid in the evolution of Indian art post-Independence. On the occasion of his death anniversary, let us celebrate this modern Indian master by looking at some of his iconic themes and subjects that have influenced generations of artists to come.


MF Husain
M F Husain _ Equus

MF Husain had a fascination for horses from a young age which naturally became a central theme in his art. Growing up, he witnessed the tazias taken out during Muharram processions which sparked his love for the majestic nature of the creature. His visual memories of horses are reflected in his paintings inspired by Indian mythology, landscapes, and personal experiences. The bold colours and expressive strokes capture the immense strength, beauty, and vitality of the animal. This Horse series by the artist was widely recognized and became a part of his signature style.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa Series – Pieta

The artist was deeply moved by Mother Teresa when he first saw her comforting old people, the destitute, and sick children while walking on the streets of Kolkata; it was this moment that inspired Husain to make a portrait of her. She went on to become an important maternal figure in Husain’s life, after which he created a series of works with her as the recurring subject. The artist beautifully depicted the Nobel Peace Prize winner by showcasing her caring nature, and the light and hope she brought in people’s life. He usually painted her faceless, protectively holding a body, surrounded by the weak. In some works, only the form of her hands is visible but she is easily identifiable. The series symbolises not only the void Husain experienced after losing his mother at a young age but also of the deep impact her absence had on him.


M F Husain _ Untitled (Ragmala Series)

Husain had a deep admiration and love for music which is often reflected in his works. The ‘Ragamala’ series by the artist presents modern compositions that are perfectly blended with Husain’s classic cubist style; showcasing the elements of form, movement, and music. This series by the artist depicted the classical music elements of India, with musicians playing classical Indian instruments like sitar, veena, and sarod. These musical images by Husain were poetic yet bold and were representative of his art which was deeply rooted in Indian culture.

Religious & Mythological Subjects

MF Husain
M F Husain _ Krishna

Husain created several works which were influenced by religious and mythological sources. He depicted various Indian mythological icons including Krishna, Hanuman, Raavan, Ganesh, Durga, Saraswati, and Laxmi in vibrant colours throughout his career. Hanuman was one of the oft-recurring mythological characters throughout his career. His works like the Mahabharata series and the Last Supper were all drawn from mythologised events. These works by the artist were all unique in form and style, offering a great perspective of his artistic vision, and his ability to showcase their importance in the country’s culture.

British Raj

MF Husain
M F Husain _ British Raj Procession

The British Raj series by Husain was inspired by his own experiences influenced by the political, economic, and cultural changes in India during the British colonial rule. He first began the series in the 1980s, depicting British officials, soldiers, Indian citizens and the tense relationship between them. In his signature style, he portrayed the relationship between the coloniser and the colonised; depicting the rise of the Indian independence movement, the forming of national identity, and the impact of colonialism in India.

Maqbool Fida Husain was one of India’s most recognisable and celebrated modern Indian artists, and his legacy continues till date.The artist was responsible for bringing international recognition to the burgeoning art of the subcontinent through his vibrant and unique artistic language. The artist was honoured with prestigious civilian awards such as the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India. The artist passed away in London on 9 June 2011.

 Sunny Chandiramani is Senior Vice President,
Client Relations at AstaGuru Auction House


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