Syed Haider Raza was born in 1922 in Madhya Pradesh and studied painting at the Nagpur School of Art and the Sir J.J.School of Art. A founder member of the Progressive Artists' Group Raza participated actively in the Group's activities, stimulated many discussions in the early struggle to develop a modernist language and presented several exhibitions of his paintings in India before leaving for France on a French Government scholarship in 1950. In Paris he studied painting at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts from 1950 to 1953.
Awarded the Prix de la Critique in Paris in 1956, Raza has held numerous exhibitions both in India and abroad. He has participated in the Venice, Sao Paulo and Menton Biennales and has held retrospective shows the most recent being in 1997 in Mumbai, Bhopal and New Delhi The University of California invited him as a visiting lecturer at the art department of Berkeley in 1962. In December 1978 the Madhya Pradesh Government invited him to his native state to pay him homage and for an exhibition of his work in Bhopal.