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 Francis Newton Souza  (1924 - 2002)

About: Francis Newton Souza


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Lived/Active: New York / India/England      Known for: avant garde painting, human form-heads

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BIOGRAPHY for Francis Newton Souza
1924 (Saligoa, Goa, India)
2002 (Mumbai, India)

New York / India/England

Self portrait - Untitled (Self Portrait)

Often Known For
avant garde painting, human form-heads

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Saligao, in Goa, India, in 1924, Souza studied at the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai, but was expelled for his participation in the Quit India Movement. In 1949, he left for London where he supported himself doing occasional journalism, writing articles for magazines like Studio International and ArtNews and Review. He rocketed to international fame in the 1950s following a 1955 solo show at London’s Gallery One, in which all of his paintings were sold. The next decade saw a bevy of solo shows, a 1962 monograph, an Italian government-sponsored stint in Italy, and acquisitions by London’s Tate Gallery. Backed by the patronage of Eugene Schuster, of the London Arts Group gallery, in Detroit, Souza migrated to New York in 1967, where he received the Guggenheim International Award. Success waxed and waned in the years that followed, though his reputation was ultimately cemented. Throughout his life, his work appeared in the world’s major art spaces, including the Halles de L’lle in Geneva, the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., Bose Pacia in New York, the Royal Academy of Arts in London and many others in Paris, London, Dubai and New Delhi. He died on a visit to his native country, in Mumbai, and was buried there in 2002. Since his death, his work has appeared in dozens upon dozens of exhibitions around the world.
Christie's, Mumbai

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Francis Newton Souza (April 12, 1924 - March 28, 2002) was an Indian artist. He was the first avant-garde artist from India to achieve widespread recognition in the West.

Biography from Sutlej Art Gallery:
Born in Goa, India in 1924, Francis Newton Souza,  the founder of the Progressive Artist's Group in 1947, is best known for his inventive human forms particularly the heads.  He was a student at the J.J. School of Art from where he was expelled in 1942 for participating in the Quit India Movement.

He left for London in 1949 where after an initial period of struggle his work began to have an impact.  The Institute of Contemporary Arts included his work in a group exhibition in 1954 to be followed by a solo show at Gallery One in 1955. 

The publication of his autobiographical piece 'Nirvana of a Maggot' in Encounter magazine that was then edited by the poet Stephen Spender also won him recognition.
A series of exhibitions that followed did well and were reviewed by well-known art critics like John Berger who noted that Souza straddles many traditions but serves none".

Apart from his paintings he proved to be very articulate and an ingenious writer as his book "Words and Lines" published in London in 1959 revealed.  He was on his way to being recognized as an outstanding painter when he left for the United States and settled in New York in 1967.

Souza participated in the Commonwealth Artists of Fame exhibition in London in 1977 and has had several exhibitions including one man shows in Paris in 1954 and 1960 and in Detroit in 1968.  His retrospectives were held in New Delhi and Mumbai in 1987 and a show at the Indus Gallery in Karachi in 1988. A large retrospective was once again held in New Delhi in 1996.

Souza's early work has made an impact both in India and abroad.  His strong, bold lines delineated the head in a distinctive way where it was virtually re-invented the circles, hatchings and crosses.  In later years, his forms retained their plasticity but became less inventive.

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