Sayed Haider Raza
Born(1922-02-22)22 February 1922
Died23 July 2016(2016-07-23) (aged 94)
Delhi, India
Education• Chitrakala Mahavidyalaya, Nagpur
Sir J. J. School of Arts, Mumbai
MovementBombay Progressive Artists' Group
AwardsPadma Vibhushan (2013)
Padma Bhushan (2007)
Fellow of Lalit Kala Academy (1984)
Padma Shri (1981)
Commandeur de la Legion d'honneur (2015)

Sayed Haider Raza LH (22 February 1922 – 23 July 2016) was an Indian painter who lived and worked in France for most of his career.[1] Born on 22 February 1922 in Kakkaiya (District Mandla), Central Provinces, British India (present-day Madhya Pradesh), Raza moved to France in 1950, marrying the French artist Janine Mongillat in 1959. Following her death from cancer in 2002, Raza returned to India in 2010, where he would live until his death on 28 July 2016.[2][3][4]

Having maintained strong ties with India throughout his career, Raza was an acclaimed for his art both there and in France.[5][6] He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1981,[7] Fellowship of the Lalit Kala Academi in 1984,[8] Padma Bhushan in 2007,[9] and Padma Vibhushan in 2013.[10] He was conferred with the Commandeur de la Legion d'honneur (Legion of Honour) on 14 July 2015.[11]

His seminal work Saurashtra sold for 16.42 crore ($3,486,965) at a Christie's auction in 2010.[12][13]

Early life and education

Sayed Haider Raza was born in Kakkaiya,[14] Mandla district, Madhya Pradesh, to Sayed Mohammed Razi, the Deputy Forest Ranger of the district and Tahira Begum.[15][16] It was here where he spent his early years, completed primary education, and took to drawing at the age of 12. He moved to Damoh (also in Madhya Pradesh) at 13;[17] where he completed his high school education from Government High School, Damoh.[18]

After high school, he studied further at the Nagpur School of Art, Nagpur (1939–43), followed by Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai (1943–47),[19] before moving to France in October 1950 to study at the École Nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSB-A), Paris (1950-1953) on a Government of France scholarship.[20] After his studies, he traveled across Europe, and continued to live and exhibit his work in Paris.[18] He was later awarded the Prix de la critique in Paris in 1956, becoming the first non-French artist to receive the honor.[21]

Art career

Early career

The Bombay Progressive Artists group

Sayed Haider Raza, had his first solo show when he was 24 in 1946 at Bombay Art Society Salon, and was awarded the Silver Medal of the society.[15]

His work evolved from painting expressionistic landscapes to abstract ones. From his fluent water colours of landscapes and townscapes executed in the early 1940s, he moved toward a more expressive language, painting landscapes of the mind.

Raza carefully crafted his career to become an inspiration to two generations of artists. The year of 1947 proved to be a very important year for him. First, his mother died. Then, he co-founded the revolutionary Bombay Progressive Artists' Group (PAG) (1947–1956)[21] along with K. H. Ara and F. N. Souza.[22] This group set out to break free from the influences of European realism in Indian art and bring Indian inner vision (Antar gyan) into the art.[23] The group had its first show in 1948.[7] A revolutionary amount of art was created by the people in this group from 1940 to 1990. Raza's father died the same year his mother had died in Mandla. The majority of his four brothers and sister, migrated to Pakistan, after the partition of India. In the early years, the group continued its close rapport. Krishen Khanna speaks of the first exhibition Raza, Akbar Padamsee and F. N. Souza mounted together at the Gallery Cruz in Paris. "Souza and Padamsee painted in a quasi-modern fashion. Raza, however, made a throwback to the Mughal period, creating jewel-like water colours, with the pigment rubbed in with a shell. He was vastly successful and acquired by important collectors."[24]

Once in France, he continued to experiment with currents of Western Modernism, moving from Expressionist modes towards greater abstraction and eventually incorporating elements of Tantrism from Indian scriptures.[23][25][26] Whereas his fellow contemporaries dealt with more figural subjects, Raza chose to focus on landscapes in the 1940s and 50s, inspired in part by a move to France. In 1956, he was awarded the prestigious Prix de la Critique, this was a monumental award to the art scene in India.

In 1962, he became a visiting lecturer at the University of California in Berkeley, USA.[27] Raza was initially enamored of the bucolic countryside of rural France. Eglise is part of a series which captures the rolling terrain and quaint village architecture of this region. Showing a tumultuous church engulfed by an inky blue night sky, Raza uses gestural brushstrokes and a heavily impasto-ed application of paint, stylistic devices which hint at his later 1970s abstractions.[citation needed]

The "Bindu" and beyond

Painting by S. H. Raza
Black Sun based on Bindu by S. H. Raza

By the 1970s Raza had grown increasingly unhappy and restless with his own work and wanted to find a new direction and deeper authenticity in his work, and move away from what he called the 'plastic art'. His trips to India, especially to caves of Ajanta - Ellora, followed by those to Varanasi, Gujarat and Rajasthan, made him realize his role and study Indian culture more closely, the result was "Bindu",[28] which signified his rebirth as a painter.[29] The Bindu[30][31][32] came forth in 1980, and took his work deeper and brought in, his new-found Indian vision and Indian ethnography. One of the reasons he attributes to the origin of the "Bindu", have been his elementary school teacher, who on finding him lacking adequate concentration, drew a dot on the blackboard and asked him to concentrate on it.[33] The "Bindu" is related to Indian philosophy of being the point of all creation. The reason this interested Raza so much is because he was looking for new inspiration for his art and this created a new point of creation for himself.

After the introduction of "BUNDU" (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),[34] which bolstered Indian concepts of space and time, as well as that of "prakriti-purusha" (the cosmic substance and the energy or the spirit respectively), his transformation from an expressionist to a master of abstraction and profundity, was complete.[23] His multiple works of art with the bindu is what truly tied him to his Indian roots and culture. This art created a sense of pride for his culture. The bindu is now widely regarded as a trademark for Raza and he said in 2010 that "It's the centre of my life".[35]

"My work is my own inner experience and involvement with the mysteries of nature and form which is expressed in colour, line, space and light".
- S. H. Raza

Raza abandoned the expressionistic landscape for a geometric abstraction and the "Bindu".[7] Raza perceived the Bindu as the center of creation and existence progressing towards forms and color as well as energy, sound, space and time.

His work took another leap in 2000, when he began to express his increasingly deepened insights and thoughts on Indian spiritual, and created works around the Kundalini,[36] Nagas,[37] and the Mahabharat.[28][38]

Public contributions

For the promotion of art among Indian youth, he established the Raza Foundation in India which gives the Annual Raza Foundation Award to young artists in India. The Raza Foundation in France, based in the artist village of Gorbio, runs the Estate of Sayed Haider Raza.[39]

Later years and death

In 2011, a few years after the death of his wife, S.H. Raza decided to move back from France to New Delhi, where he continued to work several hours a day up until his death on 22 July 2016, at the age of 94, in New Delhi. His last wish being laid to rest in his hometown Mandla beside his father's grave was fulfilled. He was buried in Mandla city's kabristan.[citation needed]


Solo exhibitions

Selected Biennales

Further reading


  1. ^ "Syed Haider Raza turns 85", The Hindu, 21 February 2007.
  2. ^ "S H Raza on Tao Art Gallery". Tao Art Gallery. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  3. ^ "S H Raza dies at 94; end of an era in Modern Indian art". The Times of India. 23 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  4. ^ "S.H. Raza in 10 questions | Christie's". Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  5. ^ Painting is like sadhana..., dnaindia, 18 September 2005.
  6. ^ Artist Details Archived 12 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine Raza at
  7. ^ a b c Lalit Kala Ratna Profiles Archived 5 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine Official list of Awardees at
  8. ^ "Lalit Kala Akademi Fellows". Lalit Kala Akademi. 15 June 2009. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009. Retrieved 6 June 2022.
  9. ^ "Padma Awards | Interactive Dashboard". Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Padma Awards". pib. 29 January 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  11. ^ "Noted artist Raza conferred highest French civilian honour". The Hindu. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  12. ^ "Raza work fetches record Rs 16.3cr". The Times of India. 11 June 2010. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  13. ^ Raza's Saurashtra Artwork and Auction details OSIANAMA.COM
  14. ^ Archived 8 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ a b Artist Bio Archived 6 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine Raza Retrospective 2007, New York.
  16. ^ Profiles Archived 30 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine S H Raza at
  17. ^ Profile of the Month Sayed Haider Raza at
  18. ^ a b Artist Summary Sayed Haider Raza at
  19. ^ "Artist Background". Archived from the original on 9 February 2005.
  20. ^ Artist Directory S H Raza at
  21. ^ a b "Vadehra Art Gallery". Archived from the original on 29 March 2014. Retrieved 2013-05-08.S. H. Raza at
  22. ^ Artist Details Archived 10 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine Raza at
  23. ^ a b c Art & Culture, 20 February 2008.
  24. ^ Sinha, Gayatri (27 July 2016). "Bindu. Period". India Today. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  25. ^ Indian Heroes S. H. Raza at
  26. ^ Raza’s runes: visions of the self Swapna Vora at
  27. ^ Artist Biography Archived 24 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine Raza at
  28. ^ a b Retrospective 2007 Archived 31 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine A Conversation with Raza at
  29. ^ Foreword Archived 4 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine Raza Retrospective, 2007.
  30. ^ Raza's Bindu Artwork Image and Auction details OSIANAMA.COM
  31. ^ Raza's Bindu Artwork Image and Auction details OSIANAMA.COM
  32. ^ Raza's Bindu Artwork Image and Auction details OSIANAMA.COM
  33. ^ S H Raza reveals plans to open a cultural centre Archived 13 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 7 February 2008.
  34. ^ Raza's Triangles Artwork Image and Auction details OSIANAMA.COM
  35. ^ "S.H. Raza in 10 questions | Christie's". Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  36. ^ Raza's Kundalini Artwork Image and Auction details
  37. ^ Singh, Kishore (30 July 2016). "A tribute to the legacy of S H Raza". Business Standard India. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  38. ^ Raza's Maha Bharata Artwork Image and Auction details
  39. ^ "Sayed Haider Raza: One of India's most celebrated artists". Hindustan Times. 10 February 2021. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  40. ^ "Shows Magnificent Seven". Retrieved 1 July 2016.