Sayed Haider “S. H.” Raza (22 February 1922 – 23 July 2016) was an Indian painter who lived and worked in France since 1950, while maintaining strong ties with India.
His works are mainly abstracts in oil or acrylic, with a very rich use of color, replete with icons from Indian cosmology as well as its philosophy. Sayed Haider Raza, had his first solo show in 1946 at Bombay Art Society Salon, and was awarded the Silver Medal of the society. A meeting with iconic French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson in Kashmir in September 1948 changed Raza’s outlook towards art. He was 26 when he showed his paintings to Henri and he said his work lacked contruction. “If I hadn’t met Bresson, I would have continued painting white crosses to symbolise resurrection and black crosses for crucifixion,” Raza had said in an interview with India Today in March, 2006. He was awarded the Padma Shri and Fellowship of the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1981, Padma Bhushan in 2007, and Padma Vibhushan in 2013.He was conferred with the highest French civilian honour, the Commandeur de la Legion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) on July 14, 2015.
A strong colourist Raza’s painting resonate the passionate hot colours of India with all their symbolic, emotive value. While drawing from memories of childhood spent in the forests he has also been inspired by Indian metaphysical thought. His work evolved from painting expressionistic landscapes to abstract ones. From his fluent water colours of landscapes and townscapes executed in the early 40’s, he moved toward a more expressive language, painting landscapes of the mind. Many of his paintings have a dark circular focal point termed the Bindu which. according to him is the fountainhead of both energy and creativity The strong colours and geometric shapes in Raza’s paintings have sometimes been mistaken for neo-Tantrik art but according to the artist there is no affiliation with that school. Pre-occupied with imminent energies, he is a modernist involved with the plastic qualities of art and its emergence on the surface.