I disembarked at Tillbury on a hot August day in 1949 with 15 pounds in the pocket of my only suit. In London I took up Lodgings on my own. I bought paint and brushes with 10 pounds and spent the rest on food and a week's rent [...]. I felt awfully alone in the largest populated city in the world.
(F. N. Souza quoted in Francis Newton Souza: New York and London 2005, exhibition catalogue, Grosvenor Gallery, 2005, p. 97)
The London to which Souza arrived was gripped by the gloom of post-war austerity and continued rationing, still smarting from the scars of its immediate past. Championing a post-colonial zeal following India's Independence, the artist set out to take London by storm and this painting is a fundamental early work demonstrating his desire to innovate. Evidently he developed a fascination with collage and juxtaposition, and significantly this work numbers amongst the earliest compositions using printed media as a 'canvas' -- quite literally, as a picture within a picture. This female figure similarly reinterprets Byzantine portraiture in the foreground, against two architectural structures in the background, creating a compositional balance that utilizes Souza's characteristic thick, black lines. Insatiable intellectual curiosity and patriotic fervor propelled an artistic revolution beginning in 1947, with Souza at the helm -- referring to the first Progressive Artist's Group exhibition, he declared: Today we paint with absolute freedom for content and techniques [...]. We have no pretensions of making vapid revivals of any [...] movement in art. We have studied the various schools of painting and sculpture to arrive at a vigorous synthesis. (F. N. Souza, quoted in the first Progressive Artist's Group exhibition catalogue, in Y. Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art, p. 43)