Petite Lumiére

Petite Lumiére
signed and dated 'RAZA '65' (lower center); further signed, inscribed, dated and titled 'RAZA / P_597 '65 / "Petite Lumiére" / 125 X 75' (on the reverse)
acrylic on board
49 1⁄4 x 29 1⁄4 in. (125.1 x 74.3 cm.)
Painted in 1965
Galerie Lara Vincy, Paris
Acquired in Paris, circa 1967
This work will be included in a revised version of SH RAZA, Catalogue Raisonné (1958 - 1971) by Anne Macklin on behalf of The Raza Foundation, New Delhi

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Lot Essay

Painted in 1965, Petite Lumiére represents a transformation in Sayed Haider Raza’s practice, progressing from the Post-Impressionist, representative landscapes he painted in the late 1950s and early 1960s to a more abstract, expressionistic depiction of nature. Relying primarily on color to convey a lyrical vision of the land, and the mood and emotions it evoked in the artist, these new gestural paintings relegated representation to simple brushstrokes that loosely mimicked flickers of light and natural forms.

In the present lot, the artist uses subtly graded tones of yellow and green, along with blacks and whites, to recall a summer day in the woods. Though the scene appears to be dominated by tangled undergrowth, a few breaks in upper reaches of the bush have allowed some light to pierce through, illuminating its dense center. Drawing the viewer’s eye from the shadowy margins on the left to the center and then upwards to the right, this dappled light lends the painting its poetic title as well as a sense of optimism and hope. Raza’s sensual enjoyment of physical detail and an almost tacit sense of painterliness establishes this work as one that moves beyond the merely representational into the realm of the spiritual.

The evolution in Raza’s oeuvre represented in this painting followed his visit to North America in 1962, where he spent several months as a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow. Inspired by the freedom and visual impact of the work of American Abstract Expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Sam Francis and Jackson Pollock that he encountered in person while he was in America, Raza began to paint with a new fluidity, imparting a lyrical, dynamic energy through his work. His palette also changed to facilitate this, with the adoption of acrylic paint which allowed him freer movement. He described this to his friend and biographer, Ashok Vajpeyi, as “a new technique that suited [my] Indian temperament better than oils.” According to Vajpeyi, “Raza was appreciative of the art of Mark Rothko. He remarked, ‘I had more affinity with and regard for Mark Rothko and Hans Hoffmann's research, which were, in my opinion, not only important for American painting but for the future development of painting all over the world.’ Raza moved towards the gestural and, in his own words, ‘continued to pursue my work towards a gestural expression, which critics in France call lyrical abstraction’” (A. Vajpeyi, A Life in Art: S.H. Raza, New Delhi, 2007, p. 76).

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