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Lot Details

Signed and dated 'Souza 61' (upper left)
Further signed, titled, dated and inscribed 'F.N. Souza / 'Spanish Landscape' / 1961 / 20 2/3 x 24 1/8"' (on the reverse)

Sotheby's / Lot 37 / Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art / 6 October 2015 / London
Saffronart / Lot 48 / The Ties that Bind: South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art / Online auction / November 2016

Most of Souza’s repertoire in the 1950's and 1960's focussed on striking landscapes, works for which he earned a considerable reputation. He was awarded a government scholarship on his return to England in 1949 and travelled to Italy later, in 1960, for a study tour. In this period, he visited several European capitals and was exposed to various cityscapes in the continent. This experience lent him the framework within which he created much of his artistic compositions in the coming years.

Souza’s landscapes bring to life the tension between the natural world and civilisation. Picturesque buildings and bold trees sit easily in Souza’s imagery with the dance of a ferocious sky, providing a commentary of sorts on man’s movements with those of nature and the cosmos at large. 'Souza’s landscapes seem to be driven by a cataclysmic force, which wreaks havoc. Most of these cityscapes following, at first, a simple rectilinear structure, which later, in the 1960's, gives way to an apocalyptic vision. The tumbling houses in their frenzied movement are also symbolic of all things falling apart, of the very root of things being shaken, of a world of the holocaust and thalidomide babies.' (Y. Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, New Delhi, 2001, p. 93).

Influences from stained-glass windows at Roman Catholic churches in Goa and Europe are evident in the thick, black outlines of his buildings. Souza draws on the spiritual influences that visited him in his childhood to render tightly ordered compositions – an effort, perhaps, to merge religion and modernity within a single frame. 'In moving to Europe, he has never lost touch with the art that first inspired him. Souza is not an artist who changes his style every now and then as fashions come along: he is a painter who has developed an imagery which is strongly his own. […] The result is a synthesis of traditions and styles, and at the same time the evolution of an original talent which has stolen its greatest powers from no one.' (E. Mullins, Souza, Anthony Blond Ltd., London, 1962, p. 44-45)

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.