Maqbool Fida Husain: The maestro’s token

MF Husain’s painting at Karachi Press Club is a fond reminder of his artistic genius and humble demeanour.

Saadia Qamar June 09, 2011


Inside Karachi Press Club’s (KPC) conference room, a large abstract painting in blue, grey and white hues is mounted conspicuously on one of the walls. To some, the composition might give the impression of galloping horses. Yet the quintessence of the work lies in its ambiguous form; the narrative of the painting succinctly captured in the lyrical words in the painting: “Hum perwarish lauh-o-qalam kertay rahain gay (Forever will I nurture pen and paper).”

This masterpiece is by the legendary Indian painter Maqbool Fida Husain, famously called the Picasso of India, who passed away on June 9, 2011.

On September 10, 1992, Husain visited the KPC on the request of Saleem Asmi, who was the club’s president then. The famous painter entered the club bare-foot (he usually preferred walking sans shoes) and painted this masterpiece. The art work remains a powerful lingering memory of the Indian artist’s visit to the KPC.

“He honoured us and painted this wall,” said Shakil Ahmed, the senior assistant manager of the club, while proudly pointing at the painting.

Ahmed claimed that it took the genius no more than four hours to paint the masterpiece. But Abdul Hameed Chhapra, a veteran journalist, disagreed and said that it actually took him three to four days to finish it.

Several other prominent journalists and artists of Karachi commented on Husain’s painting, his artistic style and his self-effacing personality.

“The painting was very lively and Husain was a very peculiar artist. He used the colour blue to depict the horses,” said Shamimur Rehman, senior journalist and member of the club.

Anil Datta, staff reporter at The News International said, “To me, this appears as a series of blotches and jarring colour schemes. The theme of the painting is not clear to an ordinary spectator.”

“The painting portrays the power of truth and the might of the pen,” elucidated Rais Jafri, the manager of the club.

Jafri fondly recalled meeting MF Husain when he visited the club back in the fall of 1992. “He was a God-gifted man. A simple man of humble demeanour.”

Sumaya Durrani, an artist and chair of Punjsher Foundation for Traditional Art, who had also met the renowned artist in the late 1980s, recalled him as “a contemporary, iconoclastic artist, well grounded in his traditions, who was able to hold a provocative discourse within a milieu that was predominantly secular.”

“MF Husain was not just India’s Picasso, but South Asia’s Picasso as well. His painting, which represents freedom of expression, should be preserved as it adds glory to the KPC,” said Ghazi Salahuddin, senior journalist and intellectual. “After the death of journalists like Saleem Shahzad, who are killed for telling the truth, Husain’s painting continues to have relevance in today’s time,” he added.

Husain may have passed away but his contribution to modern art will forever be remembered. We, Pakistanis, are lucky to have a token from the maestro, which will continue to remind us of his genius.

with additional information by tehreem aidrus

Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2011.


Anwar | 10 years ago | Reply Pakistan had produced only one INTERNATIONAL talent Dr. Abdus Salam. And Pakistan kicked him out of the country. Internationally NO one has heard of Gulgee, Iqbal Hussein, Shakir Ali, Ustad Allah Bakhash or Jimmy Engineer.
sandy | 10 years ago | Reply @narayana murthy: I am Indian but I too find your remarks in bad taste. Let's not forget that there are 1 billion indians compared to 160 million pakistanis, so naturally there will be more well-known names from India. Ok, pakistan has not done itself any favors recently by pursuing the discriminatory ideologies & policies that it has, but people there have been reflecting and calling for course-corrections. As neighbours, our responsibility now is to help and reach out to them, not be small-minded in return. M F husain loved India and belonged to india, even if some narrow-minded hindutva-type indians made life difficult for him. But artists know no boundaries and if our pakistani brothers wish to share his broader south asian heritage and identity with us, we should, in my view, welcome it with open arms!
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