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Lot Details

Signed and dated 'Souza 1971' (upper left)

Acquired directly from the artist

Vinod Bhardwaj, Francis Newton Souza: Dhoomimal Gallery Collection, Dhoomimal Gallery, New Delhi, p. 178 (illustrated)

F.N. Souza's signature drawing of heads is often characterized by robust features and a general feeling of grimness. He depicted the critical and unattractive portrait of others through these heads, yet he did not spare himself. This portrait of a man, which can arguably be considered to be a self-portrait, proves that Souza's works were self-involved and intensely personal to the point of being esoteric.

His ability to impart solidity to the head with minimum reliance on expressiveness and hatch lines while staying within intensely personal boundaries was one of his strong suit as an artist. By using overlapping lines and subtle nuances, he gave added vitality to the overall work. Here, the head seems to be disintegrating. The pockmark scars on the face may reflect Souza's condition - he had a severe attack of smallpox that left him scarred and brought him on the brink of an infant's grave.

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.