Francis Newton Souza was born in 1924 in Saligao, Goa. After losing his father at a very young age and being afflicted by a serious bout of small pox, he vowed to go about life his own way. Souza was expelled for participating in the Quit India Movement while studying at the Sir J J School of Art in Mumbai. In 1947, he founded the Progressive Artists’ Group along with S H Raza, M F Husain and K H Ara, among others. An articulate genius, Souza augmented his disturbing and powerful canvases with his sharp and provocative prose.
Francis Newton Souza’s unrestrained and graphic style created thought-provoking and powerful images. His repertoire of subjects covered still life, landscape, nudes and icons of Christianity, rendered boldly in a frenzied distortion of form. Souza’s paintings expressed defiance and impatience with convention and with the banality of everyday life. Souza’s works have reflected the influence of various schools of art: the folk art of his native Goa, the full-blooded paintings of the Renaissance, the religious fervour of the Catholic Church, the landscapes of 18th and 19th century Europe, and the path-breaking paintings of the moderns.
A recurrent theme in his works was the conflict in a man-woman relationship, with an emphasis on sexual tension and friction. In his drawings, he used line with economy, while still managing to capture fine detail in his forms. He also used a profusion of crosshatched strokes that made up the overall structure of his subject. In 1949, Souza left for London where after a few years of struggle he made a mark on the art scene. In the 1950s, he shot to fame with his one-man show at Gallery One in London, at the same time his autobiographical essay, Nirvana of a Maggot, was published. In 1967, he migrated to New York where he received the Guggenheim International Award. He remained there till his death. Souza’s works were part of several successful exhibitions around the world. His works are in the collections of the Tate Gallery, London and the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi. He has also exhibited at the Gallery Creuze, Paris, in 1954; at Arts 38, London, in 1975 and 1976, at Bose Pacia Modern, New York, in 1998; and Francis Newton Souza Rare Works: 1965-2001,, at Galerie 88 in Kolkata. F N Souza passed away in March 2002.