F N Souza was born in Saligao, a Portugese colony in Goa in 1924 to Indian parents. The artist was brought up a strict Catholic, and this was to later reflect in his artworks where the artist would paint images of Jesus and his disciples, the Madonna, and a litany of popes, prophets and saints. The artist commented on how The Roman Catholic Church had a tremendous influence over him, the priest, dressed in embroidered vestments, his garments from the biretta to the chasuble symbolizing the accoutrement of Christ's passion, as well as the Church's stained glass window.
Souza joined the Sir J.J. Schol of Art but was later expelled for his participation in the Anti-British 'Quit India' Gandhi movement. He joined the Communist Party of India with other artists M F Husain and S H Raza , co-founding the Progressive Artists Group. The Progressive Artists' Group (1947) painted Indian subjects and themes in Western Modernist styles. They looked at India's classical artistic past, and to the West for innovations in technique and style. This created a new language for Modern Art.
In 1949 the artist who was well known in the region, known as 'India's Picasso', moved to the U.K. In London, he worked as a writer and an artist and went on to exhibit his work. The artist aso published his autobiography in the UK 'Words & Lines' (1959). In 1967 Souza was the recipient of the Guggenheim International Award in New York. The artist died on 28 March 2002. He was South Asia's most influential, best known modernist painter, internationally.
M F HUSAIN comments F N SOUZA: 'Souza was my mentor.
He is the most significant painter, almost a genius'.
SOUZA's religious paintings explore Catholicism; dichotomy between good and evil, visceral, evocative, powerful, sensual and violent. During the same period, the artist also produced some of the most compelling artworks exploring major themes including: Goan landscapes, Still life, Portraits, Religious series. Bright paint to heighten and dramatise religious iconography such as pieta. The artist often exhibited his provocative paintings in the working-class colony of Bombay.
Francis Newton Souza met the artist Picasso in Paris. Here his thick lines & use of paint, as well as cubist breakthrough, was to be a defining moment in his career. Channeling the compositional structure of Picasso's 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' (1907) as well as other influences including: African Tribal Art, European Modernism, Catholicism, South Indian Bronzes, Temple Structures of Mathura & Khajuraho, Spanish Romanesque painting, European old master - all found resonance in Francis Newton Souza's paintings and drawings.
SOUZA's paintings have been auctioned for record-breaking amounts at: Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams and other leading international auction houses, making him the most expensive South Asian Master Artist. Rarely is a Souza painting of this theme and significance available.
F N Souza's art has been compared with the art of FRANCIS BACON for their similarities in the depiction of the grotesque. Souza's greater freedom from formal techniques, not as stylised, an energetic, gestural quality to his work is what defined his art. His investigations into identity, exploring the relationship between the ominous and the sublime, Chemical paintings & drawings experimentation which was a free expression to creative vision, in his own idiom in his own cultural iconography - contributes to the genius of Francis Newton Souza's Art.
F N SOUZA ‘Christ Way To Eternal Life’
Oil on canvas painting, (Year 1960)
(A portrait replete with Christ crucified figure, agony & suffering,
wounds inflicted with nails as he walks, carrying his Cross to bear)
This particular composition depicts F N Souza's mastery over line and form as we witness the body of Jesus figurine, and his ascension to Heaven.
Francis Newton Souza is South Asia's most renowned, influential Master artist of all time.