PROPERTY OF AN IMPORTANT COLLECTOR
Oil on canvas
18 1/8 x 15 in. (46 x 38.1 cm.)
Signed and dated 'RAZA '59' upper right
In 1948 Raza had a chance meeting with the famous French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who commented that Raza's work lacked structure. A few gouaches from 1948 and 1949, prior to his departure for France, such as Moonlit Night, exhibit Raza's first tentative steps towards a more structured composition, but it was in Paris that his style changed entirely. 'I came to France with a desire to find out what this 'structure' was that Cartier-Bresson had talked about - this was the start for me.' (Rob Dean in conversation with the artist in Paris, November 2010)
Raza moved to Paris in 1950 on a grant from the French Government to study painting at the Ecole de Beaux-Artes. In 1952, his work was featured in several group shows including Regards sur la Peinture Indienne at the Centre Latin in Paris, and alongside his compatriots Akbar Padamsee and F.N. Souza at Galerie Saint Placide and Galerie Raymond Creuze. This was an important period in Raza's development as a painter, during which he actively absorbed the styles and influences of European artists, blending them with his own Indian sensibility to forge his own artistic vocabulary. It represents the immediate transition after Raza leaves India for France, but the works of the late 1950s remain a formative period in Raza's career, and still reveal a tussle between an emphasis on colour and its intuitive expressive powers, and the use of line with its geometric, structuring potential.
In a 1958 exhibition catalogue for the artist's first solo exhibition with Galerie Lara Vincy, Jacques Lassaigne, then director of the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, discussed Raza's works, noting ' ... when a young painter from abroad exhibits for the first time in Paris, his works likely as not, will betray a streak of exoticism inseparable from an exotic background. Yet there was nothing of this in Raza's pictures... strange, unaccountable works, unamenable to any traditional type of art. Timeless landscapes with no accommodation for Man; uninhabited, uninhabitable cities, located beyond the confines of earth, bathed in cold light; schematic houses stretching away in a sinuous line, suspended in the sky beneath a black sun. On one and the same canvas the painter displayed opposing aspects of his theme. An unexpected distribution of lights and shadows compelled the spectator to a full awareness of the objects in all its dimensions.' (As quoted in Rudolf von Leyden, Raza, Bombay, 1959, p. 18)
The paintings from the end of the decade have moved beyond the identifiable landscapes of the mid-1950s, to begin an exploration into the possibilities of pure abstraction. In the current painting, Raza's personal imagery has dissolved into abstraction, and all elements of the figurative or human have been replaced by the play of light and dark within abstracted planes of colour. Any formal elements within the work are represented in a purely symbolic manner. The blocks of colour remain thickly applied in geometric forms like his earlier more realistic landscapes, but they are treated in the manner of paintings favoured by the Lyrical Abstractionists of Post War France, such as Nicolas De Stael. In this sense, this style of work represents a first step towards Raza's move to the gestural abstraction of the mid-1960s, but as he was still working in oil, the abstraction remains more tightly structured than these later works.
For further information regarding Raza's works of the 1960s, see lot 30.
About The Artist:
SYED HAIDER RAZA (1922 - 2016)