India’s only daily art newspaper

5 Controversial Paintings and Artworks of M.F. Husain

“Whenever you do new work which people don’t understand, they say it was done to create controversy”

– M.F. Husain

Maqbool Fida Husain, an acclaimed Indian artist, received accolades such as the Padma Shree, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Vibhushan. He was the highest-paid painter in India; at Christie’s auctions, his canvases fetched up to USD 2 million. Husain was renowned for his expressive, vivid narrative paintings that were done in a modified Cubist manner. He played a significant role in Indian modernism in the 1940s and co-founded the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group. His writings addressed a wide range of subjects, from Gandhi to the Mahabharata, and were frequently done in a caustic yet serious or amusing way. When it sold for USD 1.6 million at Christie’s in 2008, his artwork “Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12” broke a global record.

Despite his fame and established reputation as a notable artist and legend, no artist gets to that level of achievement in their lives without having to go through a bit of backlash. While the artist shifted to London in his later years over fears of getting killed or arrested in his home country. The following are 5 instances when Husain’s art became controversial and received lawsuits.

5 Controversial Art Works by M.F. Husain.

1. The controversial “Bharatmata” artwork by M.F. Husain, which represents India’s post-colonial struggles with nudity and crimson tones, had caused extreme trouble for the artist. The artist allegedly never claimed or agreed to this title. For this daring piece of art, he received backlash from right-wing organisations like VHP and RSS.

Bharat Mata Artifact | Courtney Johnson
Bharatmata M.F. Husain. Courtesy: The Ohio State University

2. The divisive artwork by M. F. Husain depicted a naked Hitler, Karl Marx, a severed Mahatma Gandhi, and Albert Einstein. His contradictory opinions on Hitler and nudity in art caused a stir.

M.F. Hussain's Controversial Paintings - Hindu Janajagruti Samiti
M.F. Hussain Hitler, Gandhi, Marx, Einstein Courtesy: Hindu Janajagruti Samiti

3. M.F. Husain faced protests and legal challenges for depicting nude Hindu deities in his paintings, sparking debate over artistic freedom. Hundreds of lawsuits were filed against M.F. Husain in 2007 over allegedly obscene artwork. When he failed to show up for a hearing, a warrant was issued for his arrest; however, it was eventually suspended. High Court Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul emphasised the need to safeguard artistic freedom and issued a warning against utilising the legal system to do it.

Why didn't MF Husain paint Allah the way he painted Saraswati?
M.F. Husain Saraswati. Courtesy: Dailyo

4. M.F. Husain’s initial solo exhibition in London was cut short due to vandalism, with vandals spray-painting his major artworks in the gallery. London’s Asia House Gallery closed its exhibition of Husain’s early masterpieces prematurely on May 22, after vandals defaced two paintings, causing an estimated £200,000 in damages. The gallery was reportedly denied insurance for the exhibition after the attack.

Maqbool Fida Husain - Artworks for Sale & More | Artsy
M.F. Hussain Horse Painting Courtesy Artsy

5. Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities by M.F. Husain encountered a screening ban as a result of complaints from Muslim organisations who claimed that the music contained words from the Quran, which would cause a belief dislocation.

Meenaxi: Tale of 3 Cities (2004) - IMDb
M.F. Husain’s Meenaxi: Tale of 3 Cities (2004) Courtesy: IMDb


Husain’s controversial and perplexing pieces of art have sparked discussion and questioned social mores and beliefs. From the controversial “Bharatmata” to the polarising portrayals of historical personalities, and even his court battles over the portrayal of Hindu deities, Husain’s art continuously pushed limits and generated debates. Husain’s commitment to artistic freedom remained unbroken despite confronting vandalism and restrictions. His legacy survives as a testament to the ability of art to confront controversy while also inspiring, challenging, and motivating.

Read Also:

Meenaxi: M.F. Husain’s Cinematic Canvas of Art and Imagination

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *