French honour conferred on visionary artist Sayed Haider Raza

On the occasion of the French National Day celebrations, H.E. Mr François Richier, Ambassador of France to India, conferred on behalf of the President of the French Republic, the distinction of Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur – the highest French civilian honour – on visionary artist Sayed Haider Raza.

New Delhi, 14 July 2015

This honour comes in acknowledgement of his peerless achievements transcending all boundaries, the lasting ties he has forged between France and India, and his continuing artistic quest straddling nations, cultures, religions and philosophies.

During the ceremony, a short film on the artist at work was played, which has been conceived and produced by Shri Ashok Vajpeyi, noted poet, essayist, and cultural and arts administrator. Five recent paintings of the artist were also on view at the Residence.

Following the investiture ceremony, Ambassador Richier released an autobiographical account of the artist, entitled “Un Itinéraire” (Itinerary).

Sayed Haider Raza

Sayed Haider Raza was born in 1922 in Madhya Pradesh, where he spent his early years, and took to drawing at the age of twelve. After high school, he enrolled at the Nagpur School of Art (1939–43), followed by Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay (1943–47), before moving to Paris to study at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (1950-1953). He travelled across Europe, and continued to exhibit his work in France, where he went on to live for six decades.

One of the original founders of the Progressive Artists Group, along with M.F. Hussain, F.N. Souza, K.H. Ara, H. A. Gade and SK Bakre, Raza has influenced Modernism in India with his distinctive vocabulary. From his fluent water colours of landscapes and townscapes executed in the early 40s he moved towards a more expressive language painting landscapes of the mind. During his stint as lecturer at Berkeley, he discovered acrylic as a medium and also American abstract expressionism.

Raza’s work represents the origins of life and draws on symbols that tribal painters and highly sophisticated Indian philosophers have traced, pondered and mulled over for millennia. In the course of a career spanning seven decades, Raza has dedicated himself to a quest for vital forms that convey his earliest memories of cosmic expanse, language and silence. The circle or Bindu has become more of an icon, sacred in its symbolism, and placing his work in an Indian context. To Raza, painting is akin to the meditative practice of japa, the fully-engaged repetition of a mantra, until it is deepened and concentrated into a pathway of energy. By pushing his work towards a meditative space, Raza’s body of work engages in a timeless convergence between outer and inner worlds.


  • 1956 - Prix de la Critique, Paris (first non-French recipient)
  • 1981 - Padma Shri, Government of India
  • 1981 - Kalidas Samman, National Award, Government of Madhya Pradesh
  • 2002 - Officier des Arts et des Lettres, Government of France
  • 2004 - Lalit Kala Ratna Puraskar, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
  • 2007 - Padma Bhushan, Government of India
  • 2013 - Padma Vibhushan, Government of India

Select Solo Exhibitions:

Galerie Lara Vincy, Paris; Galerie Dresdnere, Montreal; Worth Ryder Art Gallery, Berkeley, California, USA; Lanyon Gallery, Palo Alto, California (all 1962); 1967 Galerie Lara Vincy, Paris; 1968 Tecta Galerie, Germany; Gallery Chemould, Mumbai; 1969 Galerie Lara Vincy, Paris; 1972 Abbaye du Pommier, Anncy Roquevrune Village; 1975 Galleria Matuzia, San Remo, Italy; 1976 Gallery Chemould, Mumbai; Stavanger Kunstforening, Norway; 1977 La Tete de L’Art, Grenoble; 1978 Jehangir Nicholson Museum, NCPA, Mumbai & Utsav, Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad, Bhopal; 1979 Stavanger Kunstforening, Norway; 1980 Galleriet, Oslo; 1982 Gallerie JY Noblet, Grenoble ; 1983 Gallerie Leob, Bern, Switzerland; 1984 Gallery Chemould, Mumbai; 1985 Gallerie Pierre Parat, Paris; 1987 La Tete de L’Art, Grenoble; 1988 Gallery Chemould, Mumbai, Galleri Koloritten, Norway; 1990 Gallery Chemould, Mumbai; 1991 Retrospective: 1952-91, Musee de Menton, France; 1992 Jehangir Nicholson Museum, NCPA, Mumbai; 1994 L’Artheque d’Enterprise, Echirolle, Grenoble; 1997 Avartan, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, Le Parcons du Regard, Oletta, Corsica, France and Roopankar Museum of Fine Arts, Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal; 2004 Japa, Art Musings, Mumbai; 2006 Rang Ras, Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai ; 2006 Selected Works of S.H. Raza, Peter Louis Gallery, Paris; 2006 Germinating Tidal Waves, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi; 2006 Metamorphosis, Aryan Art Gallery, Mumbai, Delhi & Hong Kong; 2007 Raza - A Retrospective, Saffronart, New York & Berkeley Square Gallery and Celebrating 85 Years, HK, Singapore, Dubai, Mumbai, Delhi, Aryan Art; 2010 Galerie Patrice Trigano, Paris and RL Fine Arts, New York; 2011 Punaragaman, Vadehra Art Gallery & Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi; 2012 SH Raza: New Works 2012, Grosvenor Gallery, London and Vistaar, Art Musings @ Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai 2012; 2013 Antardhwani, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi; 2015 Aarambh @ 93, Art Musings, Mumbai, Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi & Akar Prakar Kolkata.

About la Legion d’Honneur

About la Legion d’Honneur: created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, la Légion d’Honneur (“the Legion of Honour”) is the highest civilian award given by the French Republic for outstanding service to France, regardless of the nationality of the recipients. The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order of the Legion of Honour.

Last modified on 21/04/2022

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