M.F. Husain, 91, is India's most cherished artist. Yet he is not able to live in his own country. His vibrant works, grounded in Indian folk art and incorporating motifs from ancient myths, have drawn comparisons with Picasso and made him India's richest painter. Husain's exhibitions have toured through New York and Prague, Venice and Tokyo. A Mumbai-based company recently purchased 125 Husain paintings for an unprecedented one billion rupees, or $25 million. But in 2006, a spate of death threats from right-wing Hindu activists, angry at him for painting images of Hindu goddesses in the nude, forced the venerable Muslim watercolorist into exile. Since then, he has shuttled between London and Dubai, still painting in homesickness and old age. Husain, who began his career as a painter of India's ubiquitous, psychadelic cinema hoardings, sparks intense debate among artists and activists over the cultural forces bursting at India's seams. The artist who has long seen India as a home for both the sacred and profane is now a touchstone for the conflict between India's secular and sectarian.
By Ishaan Tharoor
Next Subhash Chandra