Raza, S.H.
signed and dated 'RAZA 61' (upper right); signed, inscribed, dated and titled 'RAZA / P_363 '61 / "Reflets" / 12F' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
24 x 19 5/8 in. (61 x 49.8 cm.)
Painted in 1961
Galerie Lara Vincy, Paris
Acquired in Paris, circa early 1960s
Gifted to the present owners, June 1966
This work will be included in a revised edition of SH RAZA, Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I (1958 - 1971) by Anne Macklin on behalf of The Raza Foundation, New Delhi

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Lot Essay

Painted in 1961, this vibrant work represents a stark shift from Sayed Haider Raza’s paintings of the bucolic French countryside that drew inspiration from the formal constructions of Cézanne and the palette of Van Gogh. Moving away from direct representation and ordered construction, here the artist adopts a highly emotive palette and thick, expressive brushwork to communicate his remotional response to nature and the landscape. “What is created in Raza’s fragmentation of forms are analogies – not the outward manifestation of reality as in his earliest works, or the imaginary landscapes in his early gouaches – but the ‘real thing,’ through the substantial realm of colour. There is a vigour here, and an irrepressible rhythm; but it is no longer nature as ‘seen’ or as ‘constructed’, but nature as experienced” (G. Sen, Bindu: Space and Time in Raza’s Vision, New Delhi, 1997, p. 79).

Painted in 1961 and titled Reflets (reflections), the present lot, with its lustrous surface, likely alludes both to a shimmering, mirrored vision of the landscape reflected in a dark water body and to the artist’s own reflections on his practice at what was a significant turning point in his career. While reconnecting to the land of his birth and its artistic and cultural traditions, the early 1960s also saw Raza keenly following developments in modern Western art. For example, the artist traced an intellectual lineage to the path-breaking abstractionist Nicolas de Staël, whose works he encountered in a Paris exhibition in the late 1950s. Raza noted that de Staël’s work was “very abstract, very sensual, very non-realistic […] There was a whole lot of expression to be surveyed but what was important was that ultimately you came back to yourself. You didn’t have to paint like Cézanne, nor Nicolas de Staël.” (Artist statement, A. Vajpeyi, Raza, A Life in Art, New Delhi, 2007, p. 70)

True to his memories and observations, Raza embarked on a path of self-exploration through art in the early 1960s, taking up the abstraction of Modernism, while eschewing the specific styles of Post-Impressionist schools of art. In works from the period like the present lot, the forms are spontaneous and rough-hewn, showcasing the artist’s devotion to expression through color that parallels the work of the Abstract Expressionist and Color Field schools of painters, yet frees itself from their dependence on pure chromaticism through its almost organic forms, dependence on strong emotion, and sculptural application of impasto. In this jewel-like painting, Raza balances movement and stillness, light and darkness, painting a swathe of deep red and swirling whites that seems to either be emerging from or disappearing into a crevice in the inky blue ground.

A unique window into Raza’s transforming mind, this painting represents the artist at the outset of a formal and personal exploration that would last most of his career. With a renewed interest in his Indian heritage as well as the potential for introspection through passionate, painterly abstraction, Raza examines intangible memories and feelings through the textured essence of color.

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