Sign In

Lot Details

Signed and dated 'Souza 93' (upper left)

Dhoomimal Gallery, New Delhi
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Closely attuned with sociopolitical and scientific developments, F.N. Souza was deeply affected by the wars from yesteryears and was profoundly agitated over issues facing humanity, especially the development of nuclear weapons. This preoccupation was translated in his works where he would frequently portray the subject resulting in portrait studies of 'mutant' heads where he depicted images of man after a nuclear war. These studies, bizarre in concept, became more grotesque and increasingly distorted as the artist felt civilisation drawing closer to its destruction.

Aptly titled 'Cosmic Head', the current lot is depicted liberally with facial features, using numerous eye-like holes and trunk-like noses placed haphazardly within the face making the creature look more like an extraterrestrial being than actual man. But while the subject hardly resemble a human being, Souza incorporated anthropomorphic characteristic to insinuate mutation. This ability to disorganise and distort the human face without resorting to total abstraction or losing a vital aspect of the portraiture demonstrates Souza's masterly skill as a draughtsman and his highly distinctive style. By consciously abandoning naturalism, Souza liberated himself from objective representation and imbues his works rife with social commentary and criticism.

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.