Sayed Haider Raza







Sayed Haider Raza, 78, is an artist who does not paint what he sees, but gives his own inner vision to the memories of the perceptible and the imperceptible.

 Born in 1922 in Babaria in Madhya Pradesh, Raza lived his first impressionable 13 years in the forest ranges of Narsimhapur and Mandal districts where his father was posted as a forest officer. In his early childhood, therefore, his environment was formed of the Narmada river surrounded by the Satpura and Vindhyachal mountain ranges, dense forests, birds, animals, tribal life, symbols and mythology. With these beautiful natural surroundings forming the basis of his visual archive of memories, Raza developed his intuitive proclivity.

  Raza studied painting in the Nagpur School of Art and the J. J. School of Art, Bombay. He owes his elementary values of art to Bapurao Athawale, his teacher at Nagpur. In Bombay he realized the seriousness of art expression, with the artistic experimentations introduced to him by Walter Langhammer of Vienna Academy on the one hand, and the richness of Indian philosophy and culture unvieled to him by Shri Ahiwasi of Benares. When still a young painter, Raza saw an atmosphere of artistic renaissance building up in Bengal. The art-scene was dominated by the artists like Abanindranath Tagore, Nandlal Bose, Jamini Roy and Asit Haldar. Young Raza searched for an expression between the Indian working concepts of these artists and the Victorian realistic norms being taught in most art schools of India at that time. This yearning was shared by some other young artists in Bombay, in their early twenties and from different parts of the country. They were confident and determined to take their destinies in their own hands. Along with Francis Newton Souza, M.F.Hussain, K.H. Ara and Bakre, Raza became a founding member of the Progressive Artists Group, with a view to bring about a resurgence in the Indian Art Scene. 

Paris became the Mecca for the young “Progressive Artists”, with it’s pulsating modern art movements and trends, and Raza too, after tasting the success of several exhibitions in India, was drawn towards this fascinating city to view the works of his favourite artists live. He moved to France on a French government scholarship, for studying painting at the Ecole Nationale Superior de Beaux-Arts, in Paris from 1950 to 1953. Alone and unbiased by any guide he exposed himself to the works of the European Impressionist masters and drew his inspirations. In 1956, he won the much coveted Prix de la Critique conferred on him by 14 Parisian art critics. 

Yet he was not satisfied with his expression. Raza decided to rediscover his country and the values of an immense civilization. He had had numerous individual exhibitions of his paintings and has participated in group-shows and salons, including the International Biennales at Venice, Sao Paolo and Menton, and in the Triennale at New Delhi. In 1959 he married the French artist Janine Mongillat. He visited the University of California at Berkeley as a visiting lecturer in the art department three years later, in 1962. He revisited India several times between 1959 and 1985. He held an important exhibition in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh in 1978, on invitation of the government of the state. It was in his home region only that he realized his true style. As a child once, he was made to stand in his primary school verandah and stare at a “bindu” or dot on the wall for four successive days after classes to help anchor his wandering mind. It was in this bindu that Raza discovered his true destiny. For years after its rediscovery, he researched its primordial significance in the visual arts of India. From painting street and city life of India and France, he made a switch to the intuitive knowledge and spirituality of his new style. For him the bindu became the magic image from which all his work has emerged. The point, the bindu, symbolizes for him the seed, the precursor to all life, or the epicentre of rythmic reverbrations. To express this concept, Raza has integrated a basic sense of geometry into his canvas after years of hard work. He compares the intuitive knowledge of his work with the abstraction achieved by a musician while performing when rhyme and verse give way to pure perception of the subject. 

He was awarded the Padma Shri by the President of India in 1981, and was elected a Fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, in 1983. Since then he has received the Kalidas Samman from the government of Madhya Pradesh and a retrospective of his paintings has been presented at the Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal. Raza now lives and works in Paris and Gorbio, in Southern France. 







  • 1947-1948 Bombay Art Society, Bombay
  • 1950 Institiute of Foreign Languages, 
  • 1959 Jeingar Art Gallery, Bombay
  • 1962 Lanyon gallery, Palo Alto, California
  • 1962 Worth Ryder Art Gallery, Berkeley University of California
  • 1963-1968 Dom Gallerie, Cologne, Allemagne
  • 1972 Abbaye du pommier, Annacy, Le Grenier
  • 1973 La Pallette, Trouville.
  • 1979 Stavanger Kunstforening, Norway

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