S H Raza passes away at 94; end of an era in Modern Indian art

New Delhi: Legendary painter S H Raza who popularised globally Indian concepts and iconography and built a towering legacy of modern art passed away here today after prolonged illness, leaving a huge void in the artistic world.

He was 94.

The acclaimed painter, who depicted concepts like 'bindu', 'purush-prakriti' and 'nari' in his instantly recognisable geometric abstract works, passed away at 11 AM.

"He was in the ICU at a hospital here for the past two months and passed away today. It is indeed a very sad day. He was a great legend that the 20th century has produced," poet and former chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi Ashok Vajpeyi said.

Born in 1922 in Babaria in Madala district of Madhya Pradesh to a forest ranger father, Raza took to drawing at the age of 12. After high school, he enrolled at the Nagpur School of Art (1939-43), followed by the J J School of Art in Mumbai (1943-47), before moving to Paris to study (1950-1953).

He was awarded the Padma Shri and Fellowship of the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1981, the Padma Bhushan in 2007 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2013.

He travelled across Europe, and continued to exhibit his work in France, where he went on to live for six decades.

Influenced by nature from his early childhood, 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.

As a co-founder of the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group together with F N Souza, K H Ara, M F Husain, H A Gade, S K Bakre and others, Raza passed quickly into an engagement with a stylised reinterpretation of retinal reality in the 1950s.