"My paintings are not a product of love or anger. My painting is a product of my libido. I am not making the error of confusing the reality of women, the beauty, with painted representation of women. When I'm painting, I am painting a picture - I am not confusing that with taking her to bed. " (F.N. Souza, Souza 1940s-1990s, Dhoomi Mal Gallery, exhibition catalogue, New Delhi)
Indian Girl was painted in 1962, the same year Edwin Mullins wrote Francis Newton Souza’s critical monograph in which he discusses his fascination with the female form. “His [Souza’s] women with girdles and high rounded breasts, fastening a pin in their hair or moving as though engaged in some ritual dance - these clearly have their origins in Indian stone carvings and bronzes. Yet in spirit they are not traditional.” (E. Mullins, Souza, London, 1962. p. 43)
"The bare-breasted, unashamedly sexual women made by Souza are by now well-known. Yet with each encounter we are faced afresh with their voluptuous sexuality. A fact often overlooked is the tenderness, bordering on a caress with which the feminine contours are drawn." (Y. Dalmia, The Demonic Line, exhibition catalogue, New Delhi, 2001, p. 6) The delicate sinuous line is an homage to classical Indian sculpture. In fact the earliest inspirations for Souza were the Indian bronzes as well as the carvings on the Mathura and Khajuraho temples. Souza referred to them as the mighty temples and pillars and many a carved figure of girls wearing "nothing but smiles more enigmatic than even Mona Lisa could manage." (Artist statement, E. Mullins, 1962. p. 38)
Critic Richard Bartholomew discusses the unique significance of the nude in Souza’s oeuvre as an all-consuming genre within itself. "By herself the female nude is Souza’s particular brand of mania. There is a feline watchfulness about this particular female’s eyes. Her mouth is sensuous but is not drawn sensuous. As a draftsman the line is formal, firm, and free. In such works the pin-up has been elevated to the level of the theatre poster; and Souza makes a subtle compromise between caricature and art expression.” (R. Bartholomew, The Art Critic, Noida, 2012, p. 452) Far from salacious, this is a subtle, sensuous and tender portrayal of an Indian girl adorned with classical hair ornaments and jewelry, the perennial signifiers of Souza's depictions of Indian women throughout his career. This nude is in fact more modest than provocative, whilst she stands with charming confidence, her hands attempt to shield her breasts and genitals.
Souza traveled to India only two years earlier and there is undoubtedly in Indian Girl an underlying sense of nostalgia as he yearns for the familiar colors of home. The treatment of the nude is emphasized through Souza’s use of thick impasto and riotous pallet imbuing the painting with a sense of vibrancy and warmth associated with the lush landscapes of Goa. The Indian Girl for Souza was an elusive apparition, a manifestation of home and all he left behind.