M.F. Husain was a great Indian artist of the modern age of India, around the 1940s. He drew his influence from the cubism movement that the world had been enchanted that time. His work is distinctly cubist in nature with a lot of narratives from Hindu mythology, from the Ramayana to Mahabharata. Since he was working during the period when India was fighting for independence, a lot of his work demonstrated patriotism and the need to be free from the colonial clutches of the British which were becoming ever so suffocating for the Indians, especially for the working class. He also painted daily life and a lot of Indian women.

M. F. Hussain as an Architect-A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Image Sources: A thing of beauty is a joy forever – M.F. Husain ©

“I kept on trying to use so many media and ideas in my work because our horizon is so vast and Indian culture is so rich that I think what we are today, culturally, we have a unique position and I don’t think one lifetime is enough to encompass it.” – M.F. Husain

Through his approach to his work and his narratives, he shifted the artistic nature of modern art into a truly modern direction that was necessary for a new India in a new age. He helped do away with the existing dominant genres of art in India at the time. So, if he was an architect, he would have been like Le Corbusier in India, a man who was very much insisting on laying down rules for a modern India. He would have contributed or even taken up modernism for India, which was what India required at the time. He would have dared enough to add his ideas and principles to the growing field of modern architecture. He would have contributed to contemporary principles of minimalism. This is because cubism is highly minimalistic in its own way and reflects some of the Bauhaus principles.

Image Sources: Horses – M.F. Husain ©

As for ornamentation, he would keep that too, minimal since the modern age wants to do away with any elements depicting sophistication. He would have derived Indian motifs into a truly cubist style and would have decorated the entryways with it or any part of the exterior of the built environment.

This conclusion comes solely based on the incident that drove Husain to paint the roof of his studio as a result of a small misunderstanding he has encountered with the architect who was given the project, B.V. Doshi. Doshi had apparently been offended by a comment on his work by Husain which pushed Doshi to design a studio that wouldn’t hold any of his paintings on its walls. This drove Husain to paint a snake on the roof of the studio, which was mostly underground with the roof projecting out from the ground in small parts of a whole sphere.

M. F. Hussain as an Architect-The civilization series
Image Sources: The Civilization Series – M.F. Husain ©

These were the two main themes usually found in his paintings. He is although known for his horses. In Indian mythology, the horse is revered as a symbol of the sun, of power, knowledge, and fertility. Similarly, Husain’s horses are always depicted as strong and free-willed creatures, worthy of all their mythical and ritualistic symbolism.

He received a lot of negative criticism for his work with the Hindu narratives where he had depicted the Hindu goddess’s nude. He was exiled from India as it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to survive the threats he got from Hindu extremists.

He would have definitely received harsh criticism for his work as an architect too as people with this kind of approach and way of thinking, where they want to create a new world for a new age usually receive.

At the same time, he would have been a figure very necessary for a modern India. Because he has displayed a great understanding of the modern movements, he would have been very much needed to bridge the gap between modern architecture in India and outside it. He would have interpreted modernism with underlying Indian principles. We would have had buildings that belong to the modern age but bear the mark of India. They would stand testament for Indian culture and heritage in the face of this ever-globalizing world.


Bharani Sri is currently a B.Arch student at the VIT School of Architecture (VSPARC), Vellore. She enjoys passing her time by reading about architectural history, art, philosophy, and criticism. She believes that the world would be a better place if everyone was encouraged to look through the lens of historical analysis.