Modern and Contemporary Art from India
February 25, 2011 through September 4, 2011, San Jose Museum of Art
LA NUIT, 1971
Oil on canvas
31 ¾ x 39 ½ inches
Private collection, San Francisco
Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s, Inc

Sayed Haider Raza
Born 1922, Barbaria, Mandla district, Madhya Pradesh, India. Lives and works in Gorbio and Paris, but makes frequent visits to India

Sayed Haider Raza, one of the founding members of the Progressive Artists Group, moved to Paris in 1950 to attend the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Throughout his career, he returns frequently to India, declaring: “Despite my French experience, the substance of my paintings comes straight from India."1

While teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1962, Raza was deeply impacted by the work of Abstract Expressionists Sam Francis, Hans Hofmann, and Mark Rothko. In subsequent paintings such as La Nuit (1971), he experimented with a less structured pictorial space. Raza’s numerous lush landscapes are inspired by childhood memories of the forests of Madya Pradesh in Central India:  “Nights in the forest were hallucinatory; sometimes the only humanizing influence was the dancing of the Gond tribes. Day break brought back a sentiment of security and well-being…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 painting.”2

1 Sayed Haider Raza, quoted in Vora Swapna, “Raza’s runes: visions of the self,”July 19, 2007,

2 Sayed Haider Raza, quoted in Yashodhara Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 155.