• South Asian Modern + Contempor auction at Christies

    Sale 2299

    South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art

    23 March 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 7

    FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924-2002)


    Price Realised  


    FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924-2002)
    signed and dated 'Souza 1950' (upper left) and indistinctly signed and dated 'Souza 1950' (lower center); further signed and dated 'F. N. SOUZA 1950' (on the reverse)
    oil and mixed media on masonite board
    24 x 14¾ in. (61 x 37.6 cm.)
    Executed in 1950

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    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)


    Acquired directly from the artist

    Pre-Lot Text