Epic India: Paintings by M.F. Husain
An online exhibition of thePeabody Essex Museum

Painting by M.F. Husain

M. F. Husain is India’s most renowned living artist. During a career that has spanned almost 70 years, his richest source of inspiration has been the vast cultural landscape of his native land.

The Mahabharata is India’s greatest epic. Its dramatic narrative, troubled heroes, and philosophical and moral conundrums have captivated people of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia for more than 2,000 years. M.F. Husain was drawn into its circle of enchantment nearly 40 years ago and has repeatedly returned to portray the compelling drama of its characters and conflicts. This exhibition brings together works from 1971, 1983 and 1990. At the center of the exhibition are seven large paintings from Husain’s first Mahabharata project, created for the 11th Bienal de São Paulo in 1971. A set of 11 lithographs produced from watercolors in 1983 reveals Husain revisiting and reworking his imagery for a broader audience. A large watercolor from the early 1980s and a 16-foot canvas from 1990 complete the installation.

Artistic expression has long been contested terrain. Husain, who is a Muslim, has generated criticism from some quarters because of the manner in which he has portrayed Hindu gods and goddesses. Husain has always asserted the influence of Indian art styles on his work and he continues to be inspired by a wide range of Indian themes. In his quest for new modes of artistic expression, the artist has found transcendent imagery, compelling visions, and universal significance in the Mahabharata.


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