London: Maqbool Fida Husain, one of India's best-known artists, died of a heart attack at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London at 2:30 am local time on Thursday. He was 96. (In Pics: Husain, 'India's Picasso')
Mr Husain had been in indifferent health for over a month, reported PTI quoting family sources.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Mr Husain's death is "a national loss." President Pratibha Patil said his death "left a void in the world of art."
In recent years, artists and activists, like Mr Husain, had lamented his inability to live in India because of death threats and legal cases over paintings that Hindu groups described as obscene. Mr Husain left India in 2006. In 2010, he was offered and accepted citizenship of Qatar and divided his time between homes in Qatar and London. The government has been criticized by activists and artists for failing to make a rigorous attempt to bring Mr Husain back to India. (Watch: Debate on M F Husain's exile - Sept 2009)
After Mr Husain moved abroad, right-wing groups continued to vandalize exhibitions that displayed his work.
Mr Husain repeatedly expressed a yearning to return to India. "My heart will always be in India...it is my beloved land," he said in an interview to NDTV in March last year. "I never felt I was betrayed," he said of India, stressing that he was proud of India's democracy. (Read & Watch: MF Husain's interview to NDTV - March 2010)
Popularly known as the 'Picasso of India', Mr Husain was among the earliest Indian painters to command huge prices at international auctions.
He also directed a few films. In 1967, Husain's first film, Through the Eyes of a Painter, won a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
He often described Bollywood actor Madhuri Dixit as his muse. He made a film with her, titled Gaja Gamini. She was also the subject of a series of paintings he titled Fida. Husain also made a film with Tabu, titled Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities.
Mr Husain began gaining international attention in the late 1940s. He joined the Progressive Artists' Group, founded by Francis Newton Souza, in 1947. The group was formed to explore a new idiom for Indian art by young artists wanting to break with the nationalist traditions established by the Bengal School of Art. (Walk The Talk with M F Husain: Part 1 | Part 2 - Dec 2006)
Honoured with the prestigious Padma Shree, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, Mr Husain's Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12, fetched USD 1.6 million in 2008, setting a world record at Christie's South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale.
(With PTI Inputs)