• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7814

    South Asian Modern & Contemporary Art

    10 June 2009, South Kensington

  • Lot 9

    Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002)

    Untitled (The Church)

    Price Realised  


    Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002)
    Untitled (The Church)
    signed and dated 'Souza 54' (upper right)
    oil on masonite board
    23 7/8 x 48 in. (60.8 x 122 cm.)
    Painted in 1954

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    In 1954, Souza gained some critical notoriety after he published the autobiographical essay 'Nirvana of a Maggot' alongside a set of drawings in Stephen Spender's Encounter magazine, and in 1955 he had his first solo exhibition at Victor Musgrave's Gallery One which sold out entirely. The exhibition launched the artist's successful six-year collaboration with Gallery One and secured Souza's outspoken position in London's cultural scene.

    Souza's landscapes from the 1950s in London as typified in Untitled, 1954 (lot 9) and Untitled, 1958 (lot 50) underscore what the artist perceived to be the hypocritical and intimidating forces of society. The juxtaposition of stark trees and man-made architecture is representative of the tension between the natural and the nurtured. In Untitled, 1954 (lot 9), the scene is placid and melancholic. At the upper-centre of the canvas is a cross, which for Souza was a powerful symbol of the church's controlling patrimony. Similarly, in Untitled, 1958 (lot 50), the architectural elements dominate the canvas and overpower the two bare trees. A contemporary British critic noted that "in his new painting F.N. Souza [...] paints with a sort of acid tenderness. The rage [...] bursts out in one or two pictures [...] of a brave new, post-nuclear world. But the painting itself is subtler, more sparing and more controlled." (D. Thompson, 'Review of FN Souza', The Times, February 1955). The ability to convey complex emotions via a simple and deliberate structure is an element common to Souza's artworks and writings from this period. While his work was often interpreted as evidence of frustration with the confines of polite society, Souza's advocacy of untamed exuberance in the face of timid social constrictions is ultimately affirmative.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Sotheby's, London, June 1979, lot 165
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

    Pre-Lot Text