Venice Biennale, 1956
Galerie Lara Vincy, Paris, France
The cityscape had formed the subject of many of Raza’s early works. Paintings such as Moonlit Night (1950) occupy an experimental space between Impressionist and Expressionist styles where the forms of the city were pared down to geometric contours and then organized in an abstract pattern of color to create a hallucinatory landscape which occupied no particular time or place.
During his first few years in Paris, Raza continued to paint these strange uninhabited cities in a color palette of blazing red, burnt sienna and charred black. Works such as Haut de Cagnes (1951) and Black Sun (1953) with their rectilinear forms strung across the canvas were described as, ‘Timeless landscapes with no accommodation for man…located beyond the confines of the earth.’ (Jaques Lassaigne rpt. in Yashodhara Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, 2001, p. 149).
In due course, a gradual realism began to temper this strict formalist style and this is seen in the present painting which is a panoramic view of crowded Paris rooftops with their jagged outlines abutting each other and melting into a dark sky. These shifting boundaries of mood and movement, ‘… were not mere formal exercises; they inhabited a personal space that was undergoing a metamorphosis…a searching for meaning.’ (Yashodhara Dalmia, ibid., p. 150).
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