Sayed Haider Raza’s landscapes of the late 1950s were largely inspired by the rolling vistas and village architecture of rural France, which he encountered for the first time on his travels around the country. The present example was painted a decade after Raza’s arrival in France during a critical moment towards the end of the 1950s in his early career. During this period, Raza's technique became influenced by his exposure to the painterly styles and techniques of Expressionism and the non-naturalistic color palette of Post-Impressionist artists like Cézanne and Van Gogh.
Raza particularly credits the influence of Nicolas de Staël, whose exhibition he viewed while in Paris at the time. He observed that de Staël had become “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, A Life in Art: Raza, New Delhi, 2007, p. 70).
Raza’s academic and naturalistic approach to representation seen earlier in the decade gave way to an abstracted, experimental style of painting. Combining ink and gouache on paper, this painting displays the artist’s mastery across various media. The subject is unmistakably the landscape, Raza’s most iconic genre across his oeuvre. Rooftops cut into a verdant cliff-edge suggesting the South of France, but it is the artist's palette that communicates the impression of place. A riot of reds, oranges and greens represent foliage cascading down the hillside below the village. Raza relies on color rather than form and texture as stylistic devices to communicate an emotional experience of a place instead of a strictly visual one. Emblematic of the intuitive expressivity of post-war art in France yet defying strict regional or stylistic designation, this jewel of a landscape stands testament to the freshness of vision of one of India’s most revered modern masters.