Living in London from 1949 to 1967, Souza often visited the National Gallery perusing the masterpieces of great Western artists. According to A. Kurtha in his monograph on Souza, the artist was particularly struck by the work of Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Titian, and was repeatedly exposed to the work of Francisco de Goya. "It was nevertheless certain that he had seen several paintings by the Old Master and it is known that he was aware of a number of black paintings called Pinturas Negras that were executed by Goya." A. Kurtha, Francis Newton Souza, p. 38). Exposed to Goya's Pinturas Negras, painted in the final tumultuous years of the Spanish artist's lifetime, Souza, possibly in reaction to the works, embarked on his own series of black canvases in 1965. Souza had also been simultaneously exposed to the monochromatic works of conceptual artist Yves Klein, as both were exhibiting in Paris at the Iris Clert Gallery and Souza occasionally attended Klein's notorious exhibitions. Klein famously worked with a special patented shade of electrifying blue he named International Klein Blue (IKB), which the artist used to cover not only canvases but sculpture and installation bringing the idea of monochromatic creation to new heights.
Instances of black figuration in Souza's work surfaced first during the mid-1950s and continued throughout the artist's stay in London, culminating in the entire exhibition of black paintings, entitled Black on Black at Grosvenor Gallery, London in 1966. Adding depth and subtlety to the series, Souza used a large spectrum of colours underneath the black oil paint as an attempt to create a range of warm and cool blacks with subtle tonalities in the final product. Souza also used these colours to deliberately build up the paint's surface, creating a relief-like texture to the canvases that borders on the sculptural. The choice of all black was courageous as it both made creating the work technically more difficult, while simultaneously mocking the commercial viability of paintings in general, sacrificing the popular and the publishable, as these works are notoriously difficult to reproduce, for the profound. Shortly after finishing the small group of these black works, Souza moved from London to New York. Many critics have suggested that Souza's black paintings represent one of the many pinnacles of artistic creativity for the artist, their monotone palette focusing attention on Souza's mastery of line and impasto, while providing a clear and unmediated window into the troubled soul of the painter. (A. Kurtha, Francis Newton Souza: Bridging Western and Indian Modern Art, Ahmedabad, 2006).