The Catholic Church and artists in India today expressed shock over the death of renowned painter Maqbool Fida Hussain. “I am shocked and speechless,” said Alok Sharma, an artist from Indore, central India, where Hussain spent most of his childhood. Hussain, 95, died of a heart attack at Royal Brompton Hospital in London early this morning. He shifted his base abroad in 2006 after a series of legal cases against him and death threats over his paintings that showed nude Hindu goddesses. Since then, rightwing groups have vandalized exhibitions in India that include his work. Hussain has been honored with Padma Vibhushan, one of India’s top honors. Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, who directs a human rights center in Gujarat, said Hussain's paintings "truly inspired millions, transcended narrow confines and highlighted the importance of artist expression and freedom." The priest regretted that the artist had to "spend the last years of his life in exile literally being hounded out of India by fascists and right-wing elements. His death in exile is surely a great blot on the secular fabric of the country." Padmini Mehta, a freelance artist from New Delhi, said, “It is a great loss in the history of Indian art.” She said that Hussain was one of the painters who took the Indian art to the international market. “His style of painting has always been a source of inspiration for me,” she added. “India has lost a very renowned and progressive artist who through his paintings captured the imagination of people of India and world over," said Father Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. “We wish his contribution would inspire young generations of artists and painters,” he said. Hussain was born on September 17, 1915 in Maharashtra. He was also called the “Picasso of India." In January 2010 he was offered Qatari citizenship, which he accepted.
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