“You must think of the mountain when you’re painting the mountain. Not the trees and the elephants and the horses”
Sayed Haider Raza who is now wheelchair bound, got inspired for most of his early themes from his childhood memories in the forests of his native village of Barbaria, in Madhya Pradesh. Born on the 22nd February 1922, Raza took to drawing at the age of 12, since then his style has evolved hugely - He began with expressionist landscapes, which gradually transformed into rigid, geometric representations of French towns and villages in the early 1950s, following his move to Paris. Eventually with time, the lines blurred and colour became dominating; his theme was still landscape but now it was non-representational, which was directly in conversation with the emotions stimulated by a place rather than its material features.
In the late 1970s, Raza’s center of attention turned to pure geometrical forms; his images were spontaneities on an indispensable subject matter: that of the weighing out of a metaphorical space in the mind. The circle or "Bindu" which was almost ubiquitous in his being and his painting from the very beginning now transcended everything else into being more of an icon, sacrosanct in its allegory, and established his art in an Indian context in every true sense. Raza ‘s Bindu has got to do primarily with the theme of nature. All of which conjoin into a single point and become entwined - The "Bindu.” The Bindu symbolizes the seed, bearing the potential of all life"
Raza was one of the founders of the Progressive Artist's Group, along with K.H. Ara and F.N. Souza. After receiving a French Government Scholarship in 1950 he left for Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts, Paris. Raza was awarded the Prix de la Critique in Paris in 1956. In 1962 he served as a visiting lecturer at the University of California in Berkeley, USA. He has participated in numerous exhibitions, including the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1958, the Biennale de Menton, in France in 1966, 1968 and in 1978, and Contemporary Indian Painting, at the Royal Academy in London, in 1982.
One of the most telling works from Raza’s initial Paris years is Village with Church (1958). Raza fell in love with Paris in first sight and it was evident in his work. He was the first non-French artist to receive the prestigious Prix de la Critique in 1956, which afforded him both international recognition plus the financial liberty to travel throughout his adopted homeland. In 1959 Raza got married to the French artist Janine Mongillat who died in 2002.
Raza, holds the record for the most expensive Indian artwork ever sold. He was conferred the Padma Shree Award by the President of India in 1981, and the Padma Bhushan in 2007. Due to his innate and deep affection for his motherland, India, today Raza lives and works in Delhi.