S. H. Raza
Master of Colours
Syed Haider Raza enjoys being famous as the ‘master of colours’. He is one of the eminent Indian artists of the century. His works include factual and abstract landscapes budding with vibrant colors. A commendable artist of the Indian sub-continent, Raza has been living in France since 1950. But, his bond with India remains as strong as ever. His paintings have been mainly done in oil or acrylic. They have a very heavy colour usage.
Raza was formally trained in painting at the Nagpur School of Art in Nagpur and Sir J. J. School of Art in Mumbai. During his course at the Sir J. J. School, he joined Progressive Artist Group. It set out to break free from the impact of European Realism in Indian art and fetch Indian inner vision into the art. It was the time when S. H. Raza experimented with western Modernism as it was moving away from expressionism and approaching towards abstraction. After that, he shifted to France to continue his studies at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts of Paris. His paintings in the 1940s and 1950s mainly revolved around landscapes.
In 1959, he married a French artist, Janine Mongillat and three years later, in 1962, he became a visiting lecturer at the University of California in Berkeley, USA. The paintings of Syed Haider Raza gyrate mostly around nature and its assortment of faucets. He believes the Bindu (dot) to be the heart of creation and survival. After the introduction of ‘Bindu’ (a point or the source of energy), he added newer dimensions to his thematic oeuvre in the following decades, with the inclusion of themes around the Tribhuj (Triangle), which bolstered Indian concepts of space and time, as well as that of ‘prakriti-purusha’. Even though the vitality of his paintings has become delicate, the vigour remains as lively as ever. He is also credited to have founded ‘Raza Foundation’ in India for promotion of art among Indian youth. This foundation also gives away Annual Raza Foundation Award to juvenile artists. His work took another leap in 2000, when he began to express his increasingly deepened insights and thoughts on Indian spiritual legends and created works around the Kundalini, Nagas and the Mahabharat.
Syed Haider Raza was awarded the ‘Prix de la critique’ in Paris in the year 1956. He became the first non – French artist to receive this honour. One of his paintings was sold for $1.4 million at an auction of December 2006. In Feb. 2007, his art works were displayed in The Arts Trust – Institute of Contemporary Indian Art in Mumbai. S.H. Raza was the proud receiver of the high status Padma Shri award by the Government of India in 1981. He is also a fellow of the Lalit Kala Academy based in New Delhi. Also, the Madhya Pradesh government has conferred upon him the ‘Kalidas Samman’. Raza’s work makes the viewer fix his eyes on his landscapes. The artist still hangs back onto his childhood memories spent in woods where he was enthused to paint and inspired by the Indian metaphysical thought. Achievements of S. H. Raza and his works have undeniably made him one of the inspiring people for the aspirant painters. He is a living legend in the eyes of art lovers.