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Noted artist Raza conferred highest French civilian honour

Modern Indian artist Sayed Haider Raza, has been conferred with the highest French civilian honour, the Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur (the Legion of Honour) for his peerless achievements.

The award was bestowed by Ambassador Francois Richier at a function at the French Embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday to mark celebrations of the French National Day.

“I salute France, it’s life art and people on this occasion and accept the honour greatly. I am deeply grateful,” Mr. Raza said in an acceptance speech read out by friend Ashok Vajpeyi a noted poet and essayist.

‘Peerless achievements’

The French honour was conferred on the 93-year-old artist in acknowledgment 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.”

Created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, the award is given for outstanding service to France, regardless of recipients’ nationality.

The honour is presented on behalf of French President to “not only recognise those who work with us but also all those whom we believe are beautifying the world and making the world better and indeed it is the case of Raza,” Mr. Richier said.

A short film depicting Mr. Raza working in his studio played on a screen in the background while Mr. Richier summarised the artist’s life and work for an audience that comprised a cross section of people, including fellow artists Kishen Khanna and Ram Kumar who were associated with the Progressive artist’s group of the 1950s of which he was a founding member.

‘Humble and extraordinary man’

Terming Mr. Raza as “the most humble, the most extraordinary man” Mr. Richier said during decades of work in France, Mr. Raza successfully merged Indian inspiration with a little bit of French art environment.

A bilingual autobiographical account of the Mr. Raza entitled “Un Itineraire” (Itinerary) written originally in French in 2003 and now translated into English was also released on the occasion.

Mr. Richier mentioned a recent book “Yet Again,” containing nine new essays on Mr. Raza edited Ashok Vajpeyi was released earlier this year.

Dressed in a dark coloured suit the wheelchair-bound artist gifted a painting based on his famous Bindu, which he completed recently, to the French Embassy.

‘France gave me confidence, creativity’

Mr. Raza said, “France gave me for six decades an evocative ambiance inspiring confidence and creativity and imagination, openness of ideas and innovation. More than anything else France made me realise my Indian inheritance in colour and concept that came alive now at the age of 93 plus. I owe a lot to France and an honour from the French govt reconfirms this commitment.”

“This acknowledgment from France is spiritually and artistically most reassuring and rejuvenating for me and in all humility and as a token of my gratitude I am offering a painting of mine to the French embassy,” he said.

Walls of the residence of the French ambassador here sport four artworks that Mr. Raza painted during this year.

Hard-working artist

“...he works hard even today painting for five to six hours per day and am imagining that after so many years devoted to art you continue to paint and lead us to help us understand the world,” Mr. Richier said.

“The creative Raza is today is among the most respected and revered artists on the earth,” the ambassador said.

Born in Madhya Pradesh, where he spent his early years, Mr. Raza took to drawing at the age of twelve. 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 travelled across Europe, and continued to exhibit his work in France, where he went on to live for six decades.

“When he was in France he met a lot of French artists and writers also had a chance to learn from them that contributed to building of his own wisdom and his own art.

“But something that he has never left is his Indian soul and his Indian inspiration and his Indian wisdom which we all see in his paintings that we all see adorning so many of our walls and so many museums throughout the world,” Mr. Richier said.

In the course of a career spanning seven decades, Mr. Raza has dedicated himself to a quest for vital forms that convey his earliest memories of cosmic expanse, language and silence.

Mr. 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.

Meanwhile, a private exhibition of historical and contemporary French chandeliers by Mathieu Lustrerie, a French lighting company that recently restored the chandeliers at the Laxmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara, was also organised at the French Embassy last evening.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 6:57:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/noted-indian-artist-sayed-haider-raza-conferred-highest-french-civilian-honour/article7425197.ece

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