Francis Newton Souza


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Indian painter, born in Goa. After being expelled from the Jamshetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art, Bombay, in 1943, he joined the Communist Party of India and painted for a short while in a Social Realist manner. In 1946 he founded the Progressive Artists' Group to promote modern art. He left India for London in 1949, after two of his paintings were removed from a Bombay exhibition on the grounds of obscenity. Following some difficult years, he had a number of successful exhibitions at Gallery One, London. His style was Expressionist, his subject-matter was the city, the nude, and, most powerfully of all, religious images, as in Crucifixion (1959, Tate). Following public scandal over his marriage to a much younger woman in 1964, Souza went to New York. His reputation declined in later years. When his work was seen at the Hayward Gallery's ‘The Other Story’ exhibition in 1989 (see Araeen, Rashid) there was some discussion as to whether this was the result of racism or of the general swing from interest in Expressionist art during the 1960s. Nonetheless he continued to paint prolifically, over-prolifically according to Tate curator Tuby Treves: ‘He could paint three or four works a day and think that three of them were masterpieces.’ He died in Mumbai.

Further Reading

M. Thomas, ‘London Calling’, Bonhams Magazine (spring 2006)

Subjects: Art.

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