Francis Newton Souza

Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002) was a famous Indian painter, born in Goa. He was the first Indian artist to receive recognition in the west. He attended Sir J.J. School of Art but due to his involvement in the Quit India Movement, he was suspended in the year 1945.

Contribution in Indian Art

Souza was the founder of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group. In 1949, he went to London and started getting recognised there for his works at Gallery One, North London. In 1954, his work was included in an exhibition organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts. His autobiographical work ‘Nirvana of a Maggot’
was published in Encounter, a journal then edited by Stephen Spender. In 1959, another book by him called Words and Lines got published which was highly acknowledged.

Souza’s initial work created an impact both in India and abroad as a strong mode mist. His strong, bold lines delineated the head in a distinctive way where it virtually re-invented the circles, hatchings and crosses. His forms retained their plasticity in later years but became less incentive. In later years, his forms retained their plasticity but became less incentive.

As per John Berger, Souza’s style was deliberately eclectic and essentially expressionist. But at the same time his work was often considered highly erotic as he depicted post-war Art Brut movement and elements of British Neo-romanticism.

He went to New York in 1967 and settled there. He later returned to India shortly before his death. He was honoured with the Kala Samman in the year 2000 by the Madhya Pradesh government. He died in 2002. In 2008, his painting ‘Birth’ (1955) set a world auction record for the most expensive Indian painting sold till then by selling for Rupees 1.3 crore.

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