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FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924-2002)
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ABHISHEK AND RADHIKA PODDAR
FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924-2002)

Untitled (Head)

Details
FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924-2002)
Untitled (Head)
signed and dated 'Souza 62' (lower right)
oil on canvas
32¼ x 24 1/8 in. (81.9 x 61.3 cm.)
Painted in 1962
Provenance
Sotheby’s London, 8 May 1997, lot 356
Apparao Galleries, Chennai
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Umah Jacob
Umah Jacob

Lot Essay

"I started using more than two eyes, numerous eyes and fingers on my paintings and drawings of human figures when I realised what it meant to have the superfluous and so not need the necessary. Why should I be sparse and parsimonious when not only this world, but worlds in space are open to me? I have everything to use at my disposal." (Artist statement, F N SOUZA, exhibition catalogue, Gallery One, London, 1961)

Painted in 1962, Untitled (Head), represents a critical period in Francis Newton Souza's career when the artist was at the peak of his powers. By this time, Souza had truly come into his own, leading the critic Mervyn Levy to describe him in 1964 as "one of the most vigorously stimulating and committed painters of our time." ('F.N. Souza: the human and the divine', Studio International Art, April 1964, p. 134) Closely attuned to sociopolitical and scientific developments, the artist painted a series of large, ominous works during this period, including a group of 'heads', to which the present painting belongs. These grotesquely disfigured portraits reveal Souza's commentary on the state of human society as well as his remarkable skill as draughtsman on a grand scale.

Here, the bold, sinewy lines flowing freely alongside areas of staid, crosshatched delineation are enhanced by the artist's choice of neutral ground, which stands as virtual darkness offsetting the golden tones and striking highlights of the subject's visage. A plethora of eyes, noses and rows of teeth dominate this bust, making it more monster than man. This fantastically grotesque yet recognisably human figure writhes somewhere between anguish and ecstasy as Souza demonstrates his raw and highly idiosyncratic style. In consciously abandoning naturalism, Souza instead imbues this anonymous figure with a psychological potency and gravitas that communicates infinitely more to the viewer, whilst at the same time liberating the artist from the shackles of objective representation. Souza's absolute surety of execution and compositional dynamism is stunningly evident in this work from a pivotal stage in his oeuvre.

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