The nude female form was a subject of both momentous torment and endless fascination for Francis Newton Souza. Frequently revisiting this archetype throughout his career, Souza’s extended engagement with the female figure is well documented. These works explore a wide range of physiognomies from the most sublime and tender nudes to distorted and grotesque figures, expressing Souza’s complex views on the human condition, corruption, sexuality and religion.
Like the Tahitian nudes of Paul Gauguin, the subject of this painting, with her direct gaze and hands defiantly crossed under her breasts, communicates a strong sexual aura as well as a sense of the primitive, the other and the unfamiliar. Combining the thick black lines he is known for with an icon-like construction, the artist gives this statuesque nude a powerful sculptural quality that calls to mind Indian temple carvings, tribal art from Africa, and the early twentieth century works of artists like Pablo Picasso.