MuseumJigsaw: My Childhood in Indore by M.F Husain

Maqbool Fida Husain a.k.a M.F. Husain (1915-2011) was undoubtedly modern Indian art’s brightest star. Born in the Maharashtrian town of Pandharpur, he spent his early years in Indore. At the time, Indore under the Holkars was a culturally vibrant city, and a young, impressionable Husain found himself exposed to European art trends, Indian classical music, Urdu poetry, grand-scale Ramlilas and colourful Tazias during Muharram. In this environment, Husain honed his skills and gave shape to his passion for art.

In collaboration with the Archer Art Gallery, Ahmedabad, we bring you a special painting to mark Husain’s birth anniversary [September 17]. This painting, from the Anil Relia Collection is part of Husain’s autobiography series and recounts moments from his childhood spent in Indore.

Can you piece this M.F Husain-painting together?

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About the painting : ‘My Childhood in Indore’ by M.F Husain

Husain lost his mother when he was hardly two years old. His father eventually remarried and the family moved to Indore around 1919. In Indore, Fida Husain (his father) worked as a time keeper at the Malwa Textile Mill. Initially, Husain’s father did not approve of his leanings towards art. Fida Husain doubted that earnings from art could support a stable future. Around the same time, Husain struck a friendship with artist N.S Bendre. At Bendre’s insistence, Husain joined evening classes at the Indore art school.

For Fida Husain, the turnaround came when his son won a Gold Medal at an art competition. Maqbool’s father, beaming with pride, gifted him an expensive set of paints manufactured by Winsor & Newton.

In this painting, M.F Husain recounts his favourite memories from Indore – strapping his art material onto his bicycle, he would often set off towards the countryside, to paint landscapes. In an interview to Filmfare, he recollected sitting by a pond and painting, and falling in love with a tribal girl who would frequently stop by.

M.F Husain

Husain was exceptionally close to his grandfather, Abdul. In many of his paintings, Husain invokes the memory of his grandfather through motifs such as the umbrella (most prized possession) and lamps. His grandfather was a tin-smith, who sold and repaired old lamps. Essentially, Husain who grew as a self-taught taught artist, drew from his personal experiences, expressing all that he saw and felt onto canvas.

During his lifetime, Husain created over 10,000 paintings and numerous lithographs, silkscreens & prints to make his art reachable and accessible to everyone. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons why he is one of the most recognizable figures in modern Indian art. That he began his career as a cinema-billboard painter is a well-known story – but did you know, his initial earnings from it were only 25 paisa a day? A watercolour landscape he made in Indore fetched him is first Rs. 10/- ; a portrait of his family, “Sunehra Sansar”, exhibited at the Bombay Art Society exhibition in 1947 made everyone sit up and notice Husain’s work. He earned Rs. 150/- from it.

From those humble beginnings to a difficult journey to Qatar in his later years, what remained constant was Husain’s love for India and his desire to capture its glorious cultural heritage on canvas. From historical themes to politics and mythology, he tried to cover it all.

In his own words:

India is a giant circus and I am its rangeela joker [colourful clown]!

The Archer Art Gallery

ARCHER – the graphic studio started its journey as a small atelier in Ahmedabad in 1978. The studio was founded by Anil Relia, a Fine Arts major in Applied Arts, Serigraphy and Photography from the M.S. University of Baroda. His passion for art led him to develop close friendships with artists such as M.F. Husain, Jogen Chowdhury, Bhupen Khakhar, Amit Ambalal and Manu & Madhvi Parekh to name a few.

Aware of his background in screen printing and an inclination towards fine art prints, it was M.F Husain who motivated him to venture in the publication of limited edition serigraphs in collaboration with contemporary artists.

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