John Elliott spoke to Indian Progressive artist Krishen Khanna just after the death of SH Raza late last week. The 94-year-old Raza had been painting up until last year. And though he recently achieved a great deal of market recognition, he spent the bulk of his life in Europe:
“I feel very lonely now. One by one they have all gone Ara, Raza, Gaitonde, Tyeb,” Khanna said yesterday. “Akbar Padamsee and Ram Kumar are the only others of our group who are now alive. Death has to happen in the course of the time but it does not take away personal sorrow”.
When the boom faded about eight years ago and works by India’s more adventurous contemporary artists fell from popularity and peak prices, paintings by Raza and his Progressive colleagues like Souza, Mehta and Gaitonde have continued to flourish. Their mostly figurative and abstract studies have continued to hit new records for the best works, though there have been some flops, and Raza in particular has sometimes been hit by fakes reaching galleries and auction houses.
S.H.Raza’s death marks the sunset of India’s “Progressives” (Riding the Elephant)