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Lot Details

Signed and dated 'Souza 89' (upper left)

Christie's / Lot 50 / Francis Newton and Maria Souza: A Life Partnership in Art, The Shelley Souza Collection / 18 March 2014 / New York

Religion may be the root and theme of many of Souza's work, but it was also his compulsion. It played an integral part in his art, along with another of his obsession, which was female nudity. The fact that Souza was so bitterly critical of the Catholic Church yet so obsessed with making dozens of images around biblical themes was so indicative of the tremendous mental anguish he endured.

A true iconoclast, he paid no reverence in the depiction of Jesus, the core of the Christian religion; instead, he portrayed him just using his signature strong blacklines without any colors, embellishments, pomp, or details associated with religious establishments. Even the expression reflected is that of sadness or hardship, basing from Souza's whole theological position and convictions of suffering without redemption.

Souza made his mark as a profound artist by producing visually intense and often disturbing works. With his exceptional skills, he disturbed accepted notions of aesthetics and jolted stereotypical perceptions about religion, sin, and oppressive political orders, which he depicted in many of his art.

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.