"No one can miss the passion in these paintings or not see the simplicity of the objects depicted. But when these are related as an aesthetic, what we actually experience is "the vision and perception" of the artist." (R. Bartholomew, 'Nature and Abstraction: An Inquiry into their Interaction', Lalit Kala Contemporary 23, 1977-78)
After moving to France in 1950, Syed Haider Raza immersed himself in currents of Western Modernism, first experimenting with Post-Impressionist modes, then moving towards greater abstraction and eventually incorporating the geometric elements of Neo-Tantrism derived from ancient Indian texts. While his contemporaries like F.N. Souza and M.F. Husain dealt primarily with figural subjects, Raza chose to focus on nature and the landscape throughout his career.
In the 1950s, these landscapes were largely inspired by the rolling vistas of rural France, which Raza encountered on his travels around the country. In these paintings, color and painterly application become the key elements of the compositions. The artist relies on a vivid palette and heavy texture as stylistic devices to communicate an emotional rather than visual experience of the scene, elevating his dialogue with the viewer to a more poignant level.
Writing about Raza’s work the same year that the artist painted this impressive landscape, the critic Richard Bartholomew underscores the primacy of color in his paintings. "His is a prismatic vision. Colour is his joy and his schema. He is interested in the life of colour and in the life he can depict through colour. There is no symbolism other than the symbolism and the symbolic gestures of colour. The landscape is only a skeletal base, the structure of which we forget when we follow the gesture. The joints, the action of individual images, are not his primary concern. What is important to him is the leverage, the pulsating thrust of colour, its areas of dryness and of moisture, its even tranquility, its swirls of tension and its gathering of energy into knots of sudden illumination." (R. Bartholomew, 'Paintings by S.H. Raza', Thought, 16 May 1959, unpaginated)