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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Francis Newton Souza

Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002)
The Paraclete 1962
Oil on canvas
36.5 in X 28.5 in
Private collection

Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002)
Head of Christ 1948
Oil on masonite
65.58 x 66.04
Private collection

F.N. Souza 1924-2002
Crucifixion 1959
Oil on board
Support: 1831 x 1220 mm frame: 1952 x 1341 x 65 mm
painting
Tate Collection, London

F.N. Souza 1924-2002
Two Saints in a Landscape 1961
Acrylic on canvas
support: 1283 x 959 mm
painting
Tate Collection, London

Francis Newton Souza (1924 - 2002)
St. Francis 1961
Oil on canvas
33 x 24 1/8 in. (83.8 x 61.3 cm.)
Private collection


Souza, who died in 2002, was born in Goa and lived in London, Rome and New York.

Known for his bold compositions, Souza is the only Indian artist to have a room dedicated to his works at Tate Britain.

Souza's most enduring themes revolve around his Roman Catholic background and his antagonism towards it

However his 1948 "Head of Christ" was marked "Not for sale"

He is often compared to Rouault, Oskar Kokoscha and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner amongst others

However critic John Berger said that 'he straddles many traditions but serves none'

He was born into a strict Roman Catholic family. As a child Souza suffered from a serious attack of smallpox and his mother vowed that if he ever survived she would try to make her son become a Jesuit priest.

As a gesture of gratitude, his mother also added the name "Francis" to his christened name "Newton" in reverence to St. Francis Xavier S J, the patron saint of Goa.

He attended St Xavier’s, a prestigious Jesuit school in Bombay.

Although Souza never became a Jesuit or a priest, religious imagery was a powerful source of inspiration for him especially during the first few decades of his career.

Souza stated that "the Roman Catholic Church had a tremendous influence over me, not its dogmas but its grand architecture and the splendour of its services...The priest dressed in richly embroidered vestments, the wooden saints painted with gold and bright colors staring vacantly out of their niches. The smell of incense. And the enormous crucifix with the impaled image of Man supposed to be the Son of God scourged and dripping, with matted hair tangled in plaited thorns." (Souza, 1959, p. 10.)