Signed and dated 'Souza 84' (upper right)
Saffronart / Lot 41 / FN Souza: Live Auction / Mumbai / 11 September 2013
Private collection, Singapore
Francis Newton Souza (1924 - 2002) is among India's most influential modern painters. Much like his moniker, Enfant Terrible of Indian Art, he was a free thinker, often rebellious in his ideologies and irreverent to institutions he felt were restrictive and outdated in their norms.
He often portrayed subjects that are grotesque or often immensely disproportionate - whether a face or a landscape and aimed for the shock factor more than the aesthetically pleasing. He did this to challenge existing ideas and posit his own social commentary or criticism.
One such idea was womanhood and sexuality, which he explored on numerous canvases throughout his painterly career. In them, he portrayed his often complex views on the topic, the morality, and the guilt often involved with it.
The current picture, painted in 1984, is an example of this. In it, Souza depicted a woman in the nude, focusing on her breasts and voluptuous body, which is more exaggerated than realistic. He painted an erotic woman, unashamed and free from any social limitations. Doing without subtleness and portraying an image of sensuality that is forthright, direct and unapologetic, much like the artist.
The nudes of Souza are, in all likelihood, intended to undermine Catholic morality and norms to expose the Church's inflexibility and self-righteousness. As he explained in his 1992 article 'Naked Women and Religion, published in Debonair magazine, "As a Roman Catholic youth, born in Goa, I was familiar with priests bellowing sermons from pulpits against sex and immodesty particularly addressed to women, making them stricken with guilt. The Catholic men stood cocky in their suits and ties, concurring with the priests, lusting for naked women inwardly. Hypocrites!" (as quoted in Yashodhara Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2001, p. 92).