News ID: 155503
Published: 0701 GMT July 23, 2016

Haider Raza, India's poster boy of modern art dies at 94

Haider Raza, India's poster boy of modern art dies at 94

Legendary artist Syed Haider Raza, who had famously said that he lived to paint and painted to live, died in a New Delhi hospital on Saturday. He was 94.

Raza, who died of old-age related ailments, had been in the ICU for the last two months. “The end came at 11 a.m.,” poet Ashok Vajpeyi, a close friend of the artist, told

As per Raza's wishes, his last rites would be conducted in Madhya Pradesh' Mandala.

Primarily known for his abstracts in acrylic, Raza was born on February 22, 1922 and grew up in a small village in Madhya Pradesh. He went on to study at the Sir J.J. School of Art and founded the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group (1947), which challenged the existing art establishment.

"I grew up as an artist in Bombay before going to Paris. I lived there for 60 years. I have been living in Delhi since 2011. They've all been my homes," he said in an interview earlier this year.

"It has been a long journey, full of anxieties and exhilarations. I started as a landscape painter, a colorist. But soon, I turned to metaphysical ideas and the essence of life," he said.

His body of work is instantly recognizable thanks to the geometric motifs that feature in it. He has explored themes of prakriti (nature), kundalini (primal energy), tribhuj (triangle) and bindu (circle/dot).

His paintings have sold for record prices — 'Saurashtra', which sold for $2.39 million, and 'La Terre', which sold for $2.82 million— count among the most expensive paintings sold at an auction. But the artist remains unfazed by the attention. "What matters is value, not price," he said.

For Raza, the process of painting was one of perennial search, almost akin to a spiritual quest: "Art is meditation; it meditates through colors. The bindu provides you with a focus, a locus (position) to concentrate on," he had once said.

Interestingly, Raza's interest in the bindu stemmed from his childhood days. His primary school teacher had asked him to stare at a dot on the wall to calm his distracted mind; the dot would go on to influence the course of his life. "Bindu is a source of energy, a still center, a point of radiation. It has immense visual possibilities," he had said.

The noted artist has been the recipient of Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and the Legion of Honor (the highest honor awarded to civilians by the French government). Raza was also a fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi.

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