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InMemorium: The last of India’s progressive painters

InMemorium: The last of India’s progressive painters

He was the last of India’s progressive artists. Sayed Haider Raza or Raza as he was known passed away in New Delhi last month. India lost one of its gems, an artist whose work created a space for Indian art on the world map. He died at the ripe old age of 94.

Raza was one of the founders of the Progressive Artist Group, formed in the early 1950s, and which brought into its fold influential modern artists of the time including MF Hussain, EN Souza, KH Ara, HH Gadi and Akbar Padamse.

Born in Madhya Pradesh (India) in 1922, Raza received his early education at the famous Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay. He later enrolled at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, a city where he spent most of his life. He had four brothers and a sister, all of who migrated to Pakistan after the Partition.

Although his earlier works revolved around expressionistic landscapes, he later moved towards abstract. Art critics were of the opinion that “Raza was always rooted in his home soil displaying orchestration of form and colour.”

He was the recipient of the following civilian awards in India: the fourth-highest award Padma Shri (1981), third-highest award Padma Bhushan (2007) and the second-highest civilian award Padma Vibushan (2013). Raza was also the first non-French person to bag the Prix de la Critique (1956) in France. Last year, he was titled the Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur by the government of France. — M.S.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 7th, 2016

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