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19 Art works
All that you wanted to know about the artist. His life, his works, his art practice and price index
A collection of conversations that give an insight into the artist, his works, his life and his art practice -- read, hear and watch
Critical writings investigating the different works of artists, their style, narrative, themes and inspirations and their art practice
What collectors, critics, commentators, peers and the who's who from the art fraternity have to say about the artist or his work
Born in 1922 in Madhya Pradesh, Raza studied painting at the Sir J.J. School of Art before going to Paris to study at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts on a French Government Scholarship in 1950. Influenced by European painters such as Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso and Gaugain, Raza had over the years created a style of his own. His paintings revolve mainly around nature and its various faucets and have evolved from being purely expressionist landscapes to abstract ones.
My work is my own inner experience and involvement with the mysteries of nature and from which is expressed in colour, line, space and light.
S. H. Raza
The year 1922 marked the birth of renowned artist S.H Raza better known as “the Master of colors” in the state of Madhya Pradesh. He completed his early schooling from a primary school where he remembers Nandalal Jharia as his teacher. At the age of 13, he moved to Damoh, where he completed his school education from Government High School, Damoh. He started drawing at the age of 12 and was also good in geometry – something that would merge later in his life.
As per S. H. Raza, it was his school headmaster Nandalal Jharia, who taught him to centre his restlessness by concentrating, on a point he drew on the wall. And its impact on Raza was tremendous and became the artist style a few decades later, which is known as “Bindu”.
In 1939, he got enrolled in the Nagpur School of Art by his parents for further study and in 1943, the Provincial government of the Central Provinces had granted him a scholarship to study at the Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay. After Sir J. J. School of Art, Raza signed up the evening batch at the Mohan Art Club to study there as by day he worked as a designer at the Express Block Studios.
In 1942, Raza got married with Fatima. But unfortunately after a few years together, both of them decided for divorce due to some differences in views and temperament, which was granted in 1959.
In 1946, Raza’s first solo show was held at the Bombay Art Society Salon and he was awarded the Silver medal by the society.
In 1947, he co-founded a group of Progressive Artists along with K. H. Ara, H. A. Gade, M. F. Husain, S. K. Bakre & F. N. Souza to bring in Indian inner version into the art and to make Indian art free from the influences of European realism.
In 1948, the group had its first solo show.
His mother had died in 1947 at his home in Bombay and he had experienced a lot of pain in 1948 as his father died in Mandla and most of his family of four brothers and a sister migrated to Pakistan, after the partition of India and the same can be predicted in a painting he had made in 1948, “Barahmullah in Ruins”.
Having won the Silver medal in 1947, Raza now won the Gold medal at the Bombay Art Society in 1948 for his work on Kashmir’s landscape.
In 1949, The Progressive Artist Group had begun to dissemble, when this group exhibited together for the second and the last time. Souza was the first to leave for London and Raza was to leave for Europe, in 1950 to enroll for a scholarship extended by the French government at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris.
1950 – 1959:
These years are known by early Paris years. During his journey to Paris, Raza met with many other master artists like Ram Kumar and Akbar Padamsee. During the period of his scholarship at Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, he saw the works of many artists like Chagall, Matisse, Braque, Roualt, Pablo Picasso & Vincent van Gogh. It was a nice experience for him to visit the original works of the master artists. He spent more and more time in museums and galleries and followed the instructions of Henri-Cartier Bresson’s to concentrate the techniques and compositions of Cezanne. Instead of returning to India, after having graduated from the Ecole, Raza preferred to travel over Europe to learn new aspects of Continental Art.
In 1955, he had a solo exhibition at Gallerie Lara Vincy.
In 1956, he became the first non-French artist to win the prestigious critics’ award, the prix de la Critique. This award turned out to be a turning point for Raza as he was selected from a shortlist of 20 artists and judged by a panel of fourteen art critics. He became famous after this and was noticed by the Press in France and also in Britain, Belgium and Australia. He was exhibited in London, New York, Tokyo and Canada. Also his works went to the biennales in Venice, Brussels and Sao-Paulo.
In 1959, he married French artist, Jannie Mongillat.
In 1962, he got a chance to be a visiting lecturer at the University of California in Berkeley, USA. He spent his most of the time to visit galleries and the museum of New York and learned about American Art. He found that an American art is more radical and very different he had seen in Europe. During his visit to America, he switched his medium from watercolor to oil and also discovered acrylic.
By 1970s, Raza completely wanted to change his style of work. For that purpose, he visited many parts of India like the Caves of Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra, Banaras in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat & Rajasthan and studied Indian culture. He got the result after such a hard work called as “Bindu”.
In 1978, State Provincial Capital, Bhopal invited Raza for an occasion “Utsav” or “Celebration” that would honor him an award by the state government as well as his maiden exhibition at its Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad. The show was a complete sell out and the most of the paintings are housed at art museum, Roopankar.
In 1979, Raza painted a small work in acrylic. He painted first black void “Bindu”, the point of meditation that his teacher had coaxed into him, and which he re-discovered on his tour of Mandla.
1980, The Bindu became the defining point and focus of his work. The bindu is not just a defining point but also a symbol for many things – it is a seed, and therefore a source of regeneration; it is the quintessential womb, the source of birth.
2000: Raza’s work too another leap in 2000, when he began his increasingly depended insights and thoughts on Indian spirituals and created works around the Kundalini, Nagas and the Mahabharat.
2002, Raza lost the reason and will to stay in France with the death of wife Janine Mongillat. In her honor he has set up a museum in Gorbio.
2008, Raza’s annual homecoming in December was marred in a way he could hardly have expected. He was shocked to find the fake display of his work when invited to inaugurate a show of his early life by a prestigious gallery.
2010, Raza was known as France’s most expensive living artist, a soubriquet he would have more than earned not just for the gallery price of his work but more definitely when Saurashtra sold at an auction for INR 16.3 Crore.
2011: Came back to India after spending 60 years of his life in Paris. To celebrate his move back to India from Paris, Vadhera Art Gallery organized a solo show of his paintings aptly titled “Punaragaman (Homecoming)” in November 2011 at Lalit Kala Akademy, New Delhi
2012: Raza celebrated the exhibition “Bindu Vistaar” in London, presented by Vadhera art gallery and Grosvenor gallery on his most recent works. The fourteen featured paintings by Padma Bhushan awardee, all executed in 2011 and 2012, were painted especially for the exhibition.
The hindi word “Vistaar” can be translated in many ways and can refer to the terms range, scope, detail and magnitude. The exhibition intended to display the development and range of styles in which Raza has depicted his characteristic subject matter in recent times. It was the first time he has gone solo in London since 2006 and in Europe since 2010. The title painting of the show was an expensive interplay of geometric shapes with a large black bindu in the centre of the canvas enclosed within concentric squares and triangles. The quarters at each corner contain principle forms, which Raza explores in other works as well. The colours, as usual, were vibrant with a concentration of earthy brown, red and orange. On the bottom right is a pair of bindus in red and blue that represent male and female energies.
In the artist’s interview featured in the exhibition catalogue, Raza explains why it is so important in his art for him to depict the seed – the unit which contains all essential potentialities that can develop in the course of time in the life of plants, animals, humans. His painting “Germination” illustrates this well, with a series of V-shaped colour blocks, on top of which balances a pale Bindu against a delicate leaf-green background.
Next year, Singapore Museum will be hosting an exhibition of Raza’s works. Further, Christie’s Hong Kong will also be doing an exclusive Raza show (2013).
STYLE INDEX – S. H. RAZA’S REPRESENTATIONS
“I was inspired to conceive a painting which could be a letter to my mother country, India, revealing my experiences, discoveries and acquisitions. I hoped that the painting could be evidence that I was never cut off from my sources. The memories, conscious and unconscious, were ever present”.
~ Artist Statement, 1981, S. H. RAZA, exhibition catalogue, London and New York, 2005, unpaginated
The painting of S. H. Raza revolves mostly around nature and its collection of faces. Bindu (dot) to him is the heart of creation and survival. In the inception, he was very impressed by the pleasing countryside of rural France. Earlier, his works used to be very colorful and vibrant but now they have donned a more subtle tone. Even at this stage, what distinguish Raza’s work from that of the most other landscape painters was, its non-representational quality, with the colour tonalities creating an innate rhythm.
Medium & Work Techniques
Early themes of Raza’s paintings resonate the passionate hot colors of India with all their symbolic and emotive value. In 1940’s he began with expressionist landscapes which later turn into rigid and geometric landscapes in the 1950’s. Western modernism and abstraction is prominently displayed in his paintings. S.H Raza works are majorly abstract in oil or acrylic based. His works are inspired from Indian cosmology as well as its philosophy backed by the use of strong colors.
Rudiments of tantrism retaining Indian scriptural texts became the integral part of Raza’s artworks. Raza is predominantly a nature based painter who has come a long way from expressionistic artworks to abstract ones. Wavy brushstrokes and other stylistic devices of paint entice the art enthusiast towards his work. During the course of time, his work has experienced a transformation from being vivaciously colorful (oozing the eye of an on-looker) to more subtle and restrained in appearance. While drawing from memories of childhood spent in forests he has also been inspired by Indian metaphysical thought. Raza believes that his work depicts is his own inner experience and involvement with the ambiguity of nature and form which is articulated in color, line, space and light. His repertoire of subjects covers nature and its various facets. He believes, the Bindu (dot) to be the center of creation and existence and this particular thinking of his is reflected from his works.
"Bindu to me is about beginning, it is the seed from which the tree grows, it is the egg from which comes the child, it is to painting what Om is to meditation and music." ---S.H.Raza
Copal Research Team has done an exclusive study on the market movement of S H. Raza’s art works for the past years, and is very optimistic about the worldwide appreciation of the artist.
Most Expensive Paintings
His three most expensive artworks, till date, are:
1. Saurashtra: 1983; Acrylic on Canvas – Sold at Christie’s in 2010 for USD 3,486,965 (INR 16,51,34,000)
2. LA TERRE: 2007; Acrylic on Canvas – Sold at Christie’s in 2008 for USD 2,503,846 (INR 10,87,90,000)
3. LA TERRE: 1985; Acrylic on Canvas – Sold at Christie’s in 2010 for USD 1,930,500 (INR 8,88,03,000)
Copal’s belief that Raza’s abstracts are more valuable than his geometrics is historically validated by the auction’s results.
If we see the recent results of all leading auction houses (Christie’s, Sotheby’s & Saffronart), then we will be able to analyze that Raza’s abstracts are featuring more and more in auctions and also more valuable than his geometrics. In last one year, 90% of the Raza’s lots sold in all the leading auction houses were abstracts and had fetched commendable prices. One of his finest works “Untitled (Village)”, an abstract, got sold for USD 410,500 at Christie’s on March, 2012. Similarly, another abstract titled “Clocher du Village” grabbed a handsome amount of USD 748,344 at Christie’s June 2012 auction. A recent example is Christie’s September 2012 auction, where his artwork titled “Red Sun & Black Cloud” fetched USD 314,500 and secured fifth position in highest sale price countdown. In the same month i.e. in September 2012, his “NOEL” leaded Sotheby’s auction by fetching good prices and secured second position in highest sale price countdown.
Again one of his very important abstract works “Paysage” fetched an enormous price of USD 424,000 at Saffronart’s March 2012 auction, at the same time, in the same auction, his geometrical work “Earth” got auctioned at USD 291, 750. However geometrical “Earth” too is a finest work of Raza but his abstract “Paysage” grabbed more attention and leaded the auction. The work “Paysage” has importance because it was painted in the year 1970 and during 1970s and 80s, S. H. Raza drew on his childhood memories of the nights he spent in the densely forested village. Raza explains through this work that the “Nights in the forests were hallucinating; sometimes the only humanizing influence was the dancing of the Gond tribes. Daybreak brought back a sentiment of security and well-being. On market day – under the radiant sun, the village was a fairyland of colours. And then, the night again. Even today I find that these two aspects of my life dominate me and are an integral part of my paintings. It is these two aspects that Raza mentions, which come together in this large, abstract landscape.
In a free-wheeling interview, the Paris-based artist goes back in time. Somewhere in his words you see a handsome young Indian who explored a novel journey and sometimes a master who reveals his ideology