Legendary artist Sayed Haider Raza — who redefined modern art with his abstracts in oil and acrylic, use of lively colours, and depiction of icons from Indian cosmology — died at the age of 94 in Delhi on Saturday morning.
An awardee of the fellowship of the Lalit Kala Akademi, his works on the idea that the ‘Bindu’ (dot) is the centre of all creations are considered a turning point in his career that spanned almost seven decades.
In an interview with Hindustan Times earlier this year, he had said, “Bindu is a source of energy, a still centre, a point of radiation. It has immense visual possibilities.”
Raza moved to France in 1950, and continued creating stunning artwork. In 1956, he won the Prix de la Critique award, making him the first non-French artist to receive the honour.
Read on, as popular names from the art fraternity remember the life and work of the legend.
He was one person who understood the logic behind art. And despite this logical bend, there was a flight of fancy in his paintings. His choice of colours was very attractive and somewhat bright, which was a sign of his hankering for his Indian roots.
He was a very generous person and there was an old-world charm to him. These qualities set him apart. He lived a full life and may his onward journey be even more meaningful.
Even though he was much older than me, we were friends. I first spent time with him in Mumbai in mid-60s, then in Paris in 1971 and then when we spent time together when he moved to Delhi. Raza was a very reserved, different and mature man, and he was a highly respected artist.
His work was an infusion — originally he did landscape work, then he did geometrical work, and then his work was centred on the bindu or the dot. He had few friends, and was also a man of few words. The one very good thing that he did was setup the Raza Foundation.
Artist Jatin Das says Raza was a very reserved, different and mature man. (Prabhas Roy/HT Photo)
My association with him was a very long one, of almost 25 years, as he was my guru. The great thing about Raza sahib was that he was always very keen on the works of younger generation. He is the man behind my success as well as many other artists’ success.
This is not just a personal loss but is also a huge loss for Indian contemporary art. We have lost just the last surviving pillar of founders of Progressive Artists’ Group and of a generation which truly lived for art.
Raza sahib was always very keen on the works of younger generation, remembers artist Manish Pushkale. (Prabhas Roy/HT Photo )
I knew SH Raza since the year 1996 and got a lot of encouragement from him. I love his work, and his creations are beautiful. He was an icon in the field of art and more than that, he was an amazing human being. What I really respected was that not only was he true to his work, but he was true to his thoughts.
We lost two icons in such quick succession; KG Subramanyan (who died in June this year), and now him. This is a loss not just for artists and the fraternity, but for everyone else.
Even at such age, he was working and that is a fortunate thing for any artist. For a long time, he lived away from his country, and I believe this fact influenced his art. I am from Japan, and work in India, so I feel we have a common connection: of being artists who are far away from their soil.
He was a great artist and promoted young talent, especially from his homeland of Madhya Pradesh. He was a wonderful person and his loss will leave a vacuum in the art fraternity. In his last stages, he had returned to India. Jab aapko jaana hota hai toh aapki dharti aapko vaapis kheench laati hai (When your time comes, your motherland calls you back). His works, particularly with folklore and use of colours, was an achievement.