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Lot Details

Signed and dated 'Souza 93' (lower right)
Further signed, titled, dated and inscribed 'F.N. SOUZA / STILL LIFE WITH LAMPS / 1993 / OIL ON CANVAS / 24 x 30' (on the reverse)

Dhoomimal Art Gallery, New Delhi
Private Collection

The Roman Catholic Church made a huge impact on the upbringing of F.N. Souza, shaping his personal beliefs and his art. He revisited the theme continuously through the years and incorporated most of its elements in his works, including still-lifes, pseudo-saints, and the palette of his landscapes.

Painted in 1993, Souza explored the tradition of vanitas, a genre of still-life paintings showing the transitory nature of life and the certainty of death, in the current lot. He depicted a skull alongside a variety of lamps aflame to allude to the shortness and fragility of life, using his signature thick black outlines and somber palette. By placing them as if on an altar awaiting their part in some liturgical practice, he instilled a subtle ecclesiastical theme in the work. This depiction and setting, which he initially explored in the 1950s, represent a compositional cornerstone in the artist's oeuvre.

Francis Newton Souza

(1924 - 2002)
Born in 1924 in Saligao, Goa, Souza was expelled from the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, in 1942 for taking part in the ‘Quit India’ freedom movement. He went on to found the Progressive Artist’s Group in 1948, before leaving for London a year later. In 1955 Souza held a one-man show at Gallery One in London and also had his autobiographical essay ‘Nirvana of a Maggot’ published. He was awarded the John Moore Prize at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool in 1957 and received an Italian Government Scholarship in 1960. In 1959 a collection of his autobiographical essays, ‘Words and Lines’, was published, and in 1962 a monograph on his work by Edwin Mullins was published as well. In 1967 Souza migrated to New York where he received the Guggenheim International Award. Two retrospectives of his work were organized by Art Heritage, New Delhi, in 1986 and 1996. Souza also participated in a work-live programme in Los Angeles, hosted by Saffronart in 2001. Souza passed away in Mumbai 2002. Some important posthumous exhibition of his work include, ‘F.N. Souza’ at Saffronart and Grosvenor Gallery, New York, in 2008; ‘F.N. Souza: Religion & Erotica’ at Tate Britain, London, in 2005-06; ‘Self-Portrait: Renaissance to Contemporary’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 2005; and ‘Francis Newton Souza’ at Saffronart and Grosvenor Gallery, New York and London, in 2005.