SYED HAIDER RAZA (1922-2016)
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SYED HAIDER RAZA (1922-2016)

Untitled (Matheran)

SYED HAIDER RAZA (1922-2016)
Untitled (Matheran)
signed and dated 'Raza '76' (lower centre); further signed, dated and inscribed 'RAZA / 1976 / 100 x 100cm' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
39½ x 39½ in. (100.3 x 100.3 cm.)
Painted in 1976
Acquired directly from the artist, circa 1970s
The Estate of Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy, the Collection of Rashna Imhasly-Gandhy and Behroze Gandhy
Christie's Mumbai, 19 December 2013, lot 9
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Raza: The Sacred Search, exhibition catalogue, Chennai, 2002, p. 14 (illustrated)
Chennai, Apparao Galleries, Raza: The Sacred Search, 2002
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Alicia Churchward
Alicia Churchward

Lot Essay

After spending more than a decade in France, working within the styles of the École de Paris and Abstract Expressionism, Raza’s artistic path brought him full circle and he began to integrate vital elements of his Indian childhood and cultural heritage into his paintings. “I am grateful [...] that I could come to a certain recognition in the art world in France and the rest of the world. But I was still unhappy. I said to myself: Yes, it is all right to be an important painter of the École de Paris, but where is your Indian background Raza? I asked myself and I started coming more and more regularly to India – for two to three months every year to study again what Indian culture was, what Indian sculpture was. I went to Ellora and Ajanta, I went to Benares, I went to Gujarat and Rajasthan. I looked at the sculptures and paintings, I read books and still I needed another twenty years to arrive where I am today.” (Artist statement, ‘A Conversation with Raza’, Raza: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2007, unpaginated)

During the visits that Raza made to India in the 1960s and 70s he frequently made Kekee Manzil, the striking Bombay residence of his gallerists Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy his home. Khorshed Gandhy recalls, “Despite the distance with Raza in Paris and us in India, we developed a very strong artist to gallery friendship. We dealt exclusively with his work in India. His were some of the most memorable exhibitions.” (K. Zitzewitz, Crossing generations: diVERGE, Forty Years of Gallery Chemould, exhibition catalogue, Mumbai, 2003, p. 76)

On one extended visit to Bombay with his wife Janine in the 1970s, Raza set up a makeshift studio at Kekee Manzil, where he painted for almost six months. During this visit, Raza and Janine also joined the Gandhys on vacation at their family home in Matheran, a hill station located about 90 km from Bombay. The burnt red laterite earth and spectacular topography of the Western Ghats deeply moved Raza, who sought to express this experience of Nature and India through his painting. “Nature became to Raza something not to be observed or to be imagined but something to be experienced in the very act of putting paint on canvas.” (R. von Leyden, ‘Metamorphosis’, Raza, Mumbai, 1985, unpaginated)

Although this painting is inspired by Matheran and references the hill station's specific geography, its implications transcend the local. Similar to some of Raza's most significant works including Rajasthan (1975 and 1983), Jaisalmer (1975), Saurashtra (1983) and Satpura (1984), here the experience of nature is presented as a universal, spiritual phenomenon.

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