SAYED HAIDER RAZA
1922 - 2016
Untitled (Bridge with Boat)
Gouache on paper
Signed and dated 'S. H. RAZA / '48.' lower left
25 x 23 cm. (9 ⅞ x 9 in.)
Painted in 1948
Acquired directly from the artist at his apartment in Paris, circa 1987
‘Eventually he ceased to limit himself to pure Nature, his interest passing to city and village life; he found himself moved by the Indian scene so full of sunshine and colourful costume, so crammed with the interest of old architecture. In the brilliance and special quality of the sunlight of central India he found peculiar delight – it pervades his pictures’. ('Vision in Art (6) S.H. Raza', A review of a solo show, 1950, in A. Vajpeyi, A Life in Art: Raza, Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi, 2007, p. 50)
This painting is an archetypal example of Sayed Haider Raza’s earliest work and provides a rare glimpse into the beginnings of his artistic practice. In the mid-1940s, Raza moved from Nagpur to Bombay, where he studied at the Sir J.J. School of Art and painted mostly in watercolours and gouaches, the preferred medium of art schools at the time. His subjects were landscapes and street scenes captured in a variety of moods, defined by a shifting interplay of light and colour. While his application of loose, gestural brushwork and fluid shapes, along with the play of light, depict impressionistic overtures, the use of vibrant colours exhibit his leaning towards expressionism.
Raza has recalled that this time was a 'sort of awakening, a realisation of the real values involved in painting… in Bombay I realised that a painter should know his language as a writer should know the vocabulary … a painter should know what colour is; he should know the organization of colours, their values, and how to render a theme on paper, or on canvas.' (S. H. Raza quoted in A. Vajpeyi, Passion: Life and Art of Raza, Rajkamal Books, New Delhi, 2005, p. 41) During this time, with the support of expatriates such as Rudy von Leyden, Walter Langhammer and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Raza discovered and developed the principal artistic stimuli that echo throughout his career: the land and nature around him. On the encouragement of Cartier-Bresson, Raza left for France in 1950 where he spent most of his life and artistic career before returning to India in 2011.