India's most famous and controversial modern artist, M.F. Husain, who fled the country in 2006 after death threats from Hindu extremists, died in London on Thursday at the age of 95.
Indian media cited family members saying that he had suffered a heart attack and lung failure after being in "indifferent health" for several weeks.
The Muslim painter's death brought to an end to a turbulent chapter in modern India that showed how religious sentiments could still be easily aroused -- often for political ends -- and the limits of artistic self-expression.
In life, Hindu ultra-conservatives including the regional Shiv Sena party in Husain's home state of Maharashtra denounced his works as pornographic, blasphemous and an affront to national values.
Controversy failed to dampen the enthusiasm of overseas collectors: in 2008, one of his paintings, influenced by Hindu epic The Mahabharata, fetched $1.6 million at Christie's in London.
But even in death he deeply divided Indian opinion, with the public split between those who saw him as a great artist and others who attacked him for depicting naked Hindu gods.
Among the more generous tributes was that of President Patil, who said Husain's death would leave "a deep void in the world of art and creativity".
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that in M.F. Husain death, "the nation has lost an iconic artist and the art world one of its most colourful personalities, whose genius left a deep imprint on Indian art".
Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, who was at the forefront of the campaign against Husain, was conciliatory, saying that the artist was "a national asset and his contribution to the field of Indian art can never be overlooked".
"Whatever controversies happened should be laid to rest with his passing and if his family wishes to bring back the mortal remains home, it should be allowed," he added.
But Thackeray maintained that M.F. Husain had "slipped" by his depictions of revered Hindu goddesses in the nude, which angered violent Hindu fanatics and led to his self-imposed exile due to death threats and endless legal battles.
M.F. Husain supporters were angry that he had to die abroad and criticised the government for its belated praise.
"India didn't have the privilege of seeing him in his last moments, that is a huge loss for this country," Jitish Kallat, one of India's leading young artists, told the television news channel NDTV.
"I think it is a black mark on the Indian state which has not understood the immensity and the relevance of Husain."
Mumbai socialite and novelist Shobhaa De added: "Anything it (the government) chooses to do now in retrospect is really an insult to his memory.
"Why couldn't he be allowed to come back to his own country as a proud Indian?"
Maqbool Fida Husain, a former Bollywood poster artist whose career took off after Indian independence in 1947, had been in London where three of his paintings were sold by the auction house Bonhams as recently as last week.
He left India in 2006 after Hindu hardliners accused him of insulting their faith, leading to attacks on his home and galleries showing his work, death threats and even a $11.5 million bounty on his head.
He said in 2008 he was homesick and longed to return to Mumbai, where he trained at the Sir J.J. School of Art, but accused the government of not being prepared to provide him with the protection he needed.
Husain, who often went barefoot and was once thrown out of a Mumbai private members' club for not wearing shoes, accepted Qatari citizenship in 2010, admitting that his advancing years made it impossible to fight his detractors.
Indian ministers recently tried unsuccessfully to tempt him home.
The artist always said that nudity symbolised purity, insisting that naked goddesses were a long-established part of the country's iconography dating back to antiquity.
Many saw him as a victim of the fierce communalism that gripped India in the 1990s and early 2000s and of the socially conservative country's tough censorship laws.