NANDALAL BOSE (1882-1966)

Les Toits de la rue St. Jacques

Les Toits de la rue St. Jacques
signed 'RAZA' (upper left)
oil on canvas
35 1/8 x 45 7/8 in. (89.2 x 116.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1950s
Ader Tajan, Paris, 24 June 1994, lot 83
Private Collection, France
Christie's New York, 20 September 2006, lot 73
RAZA, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1958 (illustrated, unpaginated)
Raza, Sadanga Series, Mumbai, 1959 (illustrated, unpaginated)
Paris, Galerie Lara Vincy, RAZA, April-May, 1958

Lot Essay

I was moving from discovery to discovery... Paris offered me museums, exhibitions, libraries, theatre, ballet, films - in short, a living culture!

One of India's leading Modern Masters, Syed Haider Raza was a member of the revolutionary Progressive Artists' Group founded in 1947, the year of the country's Independence. Raza left India for France in 1950 after receiving a scholarship from the French Government to attend the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. The artist recollects excitedly absorbing the thriving local art scene on his arrival, and visiting several exhibitions and museums. "I was moving from discovery to discovery [...] Paris offered me museums, exhibitions, libraries, theatre, ballet, films - in short, a living culture!" (Artist statement, G. Sen, Bindu: Space and Time in Raza's Vision, New Delhi, 1997, p. 55)

Having finally seen the work of artists like Matisse, Cézanne and Gauguin in person, Raza's work underwent a dramatic transformation in Paris. He was influenced both by the palette and compositions of the Post-Impressionist paintings that he encountered, and by his early experiences of living in Paris and travelling through the bucolic French countryside. In addition to abandoning watercolour and gouache for thicker and more tactile oil paint, the artist began to rely more on colour and texture to evoke his experience of the landscape, gradually moving further and further away from tangible forms.

One of his rare impressions of the vibrant and teeming city of Paris from the period, Les Toits de la rue St. Jacques is a depiction of the view from Raza's first studio, a humble space located on Rue de Fosseés St. Jacques, as the artist recollects. In this large painting, Raza uses thick brushstrokes and a heavy impasto to portray a typical stretch of Parisian garrets and rooftops set against a rich amber twilight sky.

As the artist notes, these early years in Paris provided him with experiences and tools that were essential in building the strong foundations upon which his practice developed and evolved. "France gave me several acquisitions. First of all, "le sens plastique", by which I mean a certain understanding of the vital elements in painting. Second, a measure of clear thinking and rationality. The third, which follows from this proposition, is a sense of order and proportion in form and structure. Lastly, France has given me a sense of savior vivre: the ability to perceive and to follow a certain discerning quality in life." (Artist statement, G. Sen, 1997, p. 57)

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