Julian Hartnoll was the founding partner of the firm Hartnoll & Eyre, established in 1968. The company, which was one of the original dealers in the revival of the Pre-Raphaelite market, went on to become the leading dealer in Indian Company School pictures. In 1975, Mr. Hartnoll decided to leave the firm to deal on his own. Whilst continuing his interest in Pre-Raphaelites and their followers, he also began to turn his attention to post-war painting in England and other unrecognised fields. Specifically he was interested in 'kitchen-sink' painters and other neglected artists of the 50s, which is "...where I found Souza... I specialised in finding painters who are what I call, unjustly forgotten. Souza was just such an artist." For Mr. Hartnoll, Souza was another English artist whose ecclesiastical influence appealed to his Pre-Raphaelite inclination. He now retrospects, "The Indians wanted their own Picasso, he was it, I missed it." It was in 1988 that he bought his first Souza, Standing Nude (Mullins plate 5) for £600 from Timothy Prus, who had acquired it and many other Souza's from the widow of Victor Musgrave, director of Souza's dealers, Gallery One. Many fine Souza's passed through Hartnoll's hands during the late 1980s and 1990s, including Crucifixion (Mullins plate 3) acquired by The Tate Gallery in 1993 and Negro in Mourning acquired by Birmingham City Art Gallery in 1999.
Finally, after calling upon Souza in a letter in September '94, they met in early October of the same year in New York, where Souza was living at the time, in his apartment studio on 67th street. The two got along immediately, "I met Souza and we had fun together" recalls Mr. Hartnoll. He describes Souza as a fun, unpretentious character of a man who "had a certain self-confidence" about him. Over the ensuing years, Hartnoll was able to buy several works from Souza, who was always anxious for the funds these purchases supplied. In a letter dated the 24th October, 1997 Souza writes, "Keep well, keep it up - & sell more & more, your prosperity is mine too - to a limited extent - I too need money. Money is not the root of all evil, as St. Paul said. Money is fruits & flowers. Money in fact is everything - including girls, art, real estate, food, books, the lot. Even in Church God needs money!" By early '98, Souza was again short of money, travelling to Amsterdam, Delhi, Karachi and then back to New York, he writes in a letter dated 30th March, 1998, "Hopefully we will meet (I need money for my paintings. I've gone over the living painters in my mind's eye & to date, I'm the best living artist! No doubt about it."
Despite the fact that their friendship developed through Hartnoll's support and interest in Souza's art, it was the friendship that truly became the link between the two. Art was always secondary and the rewards of the business aspect of their association were always shared. In a letter dated 21st August, 1996, Souza wrote concerning a premium bond Hartnoll had purchased and given to him, "I found among old photographs the premium bond certificate, some thirty years old! If there's any jackpot to it you'll know for sure because of the change in my lifestyle and yours. East and West may meet but Heaven and Hell meet only in the mind!" and then on receipt of the prize of £750, "You had said I may have won the jackpot! Although it's not that much, £750 is not to be sniffed at; one doesn't look at a gift horse under the tail!" he wrote, delighted, on 30th August, 1996.
Their visits to each other continued along with their correspondence. In the early summer of 1995, Souza came to London and was taken aback by the extent of Hartnoll's holdings. Hartnoll organised a lunch for Souza at the Chelsea Arts Club to commemorate the occasion and upon return to New York, Souza wrote on 30th August, 1995, "everything is hunky dory... You have built-up a super art-collection." They then went on a trip together to New Delhi, staying at the Yatri Nivas Hotel, where Souza had an almost permanent lodging. The friendship ever proven by Souza's letter to Mr. Hartnoll, dated 16th November, 1995, "Your visit here was memorable... we really did have a lot of fun together. Please do it again." After another visit to New York in October 1996, Hartnoll took Souza to the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi in January 1997, to see his own work, Last Supper, hanging there. "...I would not have gone to see it but because you were with me, the trip to the museum was fun. I enjoyed seeing my painting of The Last Supper under the special illuminatio in the black room. Great feeling, glad to be able to share with you! ADVENTURE! Every moment can be..." 23rd January, 1997.
It was finally in May '97, that Julian Hartnoll gave Souza his first exhibition in London since the 'Black Paintings' had been shown at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1966. In the catalogue, Mr. Hartnoll writes, "Today Souza is both charming and courteous whilst unequivocally honest. He will speak his mind, a trait that has brought both opposition and admiration throughout his career... Although nowadays he may be stopped in the streets of Delhi by an unknown admirer he remains self-effacing and modestly unaware of his status in both Indian and Western art." In the words of John Berger in the 'New Statesman' in 1955, who had seen Souza's recent show at Gallery One, "I can only recommend 'readers to go and look for themselves.'" A letter soon after from Souza, dated 9th September, 1997 reads "Dirge-like last week - deaths everywhere - but nowhere is Death near me, not yet. So all's hunky dory. I wish the same for you... in fact the longer I live, Beauty draws nearer to me! How lovely! You, of course, are a Beauty monger: "Art monger," as you say of yourself. Great combo, you & me."
The works on canvas which Hartnoll bought and sold over the years were acquired by a group of forward-looking collectors - but at more modest prices as Souza had not then hit the heights he achieves now. Thus, in this rather quiet market, Hartnoll was able to indulge his own interest in the immediacy and strength of Souza's drawings - his first love - and was able to build his collection with "just the good drawings that I kept." A selection of which, is now offered in this sale.
This early nude by Francis Newton Souza, exhibits a bold and unrestrained sexuality. With the bravado of Edouard Manet's Olympia, Souza's nude stares directly at the viewer unashamed by the nakedness of her flesh. This monumental work demonstrates Souza's ability to transform the nude into both a sublime image of idealised beauty and a virulent icon of sexual power. According to the art historian Y. Dalmia, "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, Delhi Art Gallery, Exhibition Catalogue, New Delhi, 2001, p. 6).