Artwork by Sayed Haider Raza,  L’église du village

Sayed Haider Raza
L’église du village

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1958 upper right; inscribed “182” twice on the stretcher; titled on a gallery label on the frame on the reverse
21.5 x 18 in ( 54.6 x 45.7 cm )

Auction Estimate: $200,000.00$150,000.00 - $200,000.00

Price Realized $432,000.00
Sale date: May 30th 2024

Monique de Groote Galerie d'art, Montreal
Galerie Dresdnere, Montreal (inventory no. 182, acquired in May 1958)
Private Collection, Montreal (acquired 16 May 1958)
Private Collection, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Jacques Lassaigne, "RAZA", Paris, 18 April-15 May 1958
"L'église du village" was painted during a period of time for Raza when he was growing in confidence and demonstrating a mastery in his own unique artistic style. While the teachings of the École de Paris had given him a valuable command of colour and construction, what he termed "le sens plastique", the late 1950s saw Raza striking off on his own path. With a burgeoning passionate stylistic direction and a new found financial security, Raza isolated himself in his lodgings and concentrated on a new body of work. Indeed, 1958 can be seen as perhaps one his most prolific years of painting in Paris. The current work was acquired by the Monique de Groote Galerie d'art, in Montreal of which Simon Dresdnere was the director. Simon Dresdnere would go on to establish Galerie Dresdnere where Raza would enjoy a solo exhibition at the premises in 1959. It was here that Raza would encounter the academic Karl Kasten who would invite him to spend time in the U.S in 1962, a moment that had a profound impact on his artistic sensibilities.

In the current work, the rural landscape seems heavy with the prospect of nightfall or of an impending storm. Indeed, Raza’s fascination with the duality of darkness and light was to be an integral theme throughout his creative journey. Commenting on Raza’s works from this period, Jacques Lassaigne, art critic and director of the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, writes:

"Pure forms take shape no longer in the void, but in revelatory contrast with their surroundings, in light that exults, doubly bright, against the opacity that threatens it. The composition is made to expand or contract, as it retreats in orderly array along a broad avenue or succumbs to the brief ordeal of a stormy disintegration. Walls of houses are no longer smooth planes; they are broad beaches strewn with the hulks of burnt-out energies. Behind a foreground of glowing embers or darkling plains looms a mass of lustrous houses. For all the tragic intensity of its smouldering fires, and the glare of its greenery, the world of Raza hangs in a torrent of potentialities, amid the contending powers of darkness and light. Notwithstanding the storms of life, the artist, true to himself, has acquired the gift of serenity; he has achieved the inexpressible plenitude which, in the Arabian poem, is born of the reiterated syllable signifying Night.”

"L'église du village" holds a sense of tension, the sky and terrain rendered in the same dark and muddy blues, the buildings seeming to float precariously between the two. The foreground is desolate apart from a few jagged rocks and the punctuation of a single tree of spiky black leaves. Illumination is provided by the white of the house fronts and flickers of iridescent orange on some of their brickwork. Raza’s choice of colours in this canvas are a rich combination of both his native and adopted countries. The tones of the Indian miniatures of his homeland are particularly evident in the flash of vibrant red on the right-hand side of the painting, a bright fire amongst the shadows. Raza was also beginning to explore texture and the shapes of his landscape are rendered in thick impasto oil with the imprint of the palette knife clearly visible. This painting, like others of the period, are hard to link to a particular town or region and the recognizable elements of his work would dissolve further as the years progressed. Nature, in this dramatic painting, lies firmly on Raza’s trajectory of something to be experienced, something to be felt.

We extend our thanks to Anne Macklin from The Raza Foundation in New Delhi for her assistance in researching this artwork and contributing the preceding essay.

This work will be included in a revised edition of "S.H. Raza, Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 1 (1958-1971)" by Anne Macklin on behalf of The Raza Foundation, New Delhi (SR4526).

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Sayed Haider Raza
(1922 - 2016)