Barbaric Sensuality in Paintings of Picasso's Successor Francis Newton Souza
25 August 2021 

Barbaric Sensuality in Paintings of Picasso's Successor Francis Newton Souza

If you ever wondered who is the most expensive Indian painter, this article will give you an answer. Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002) was a British Indian-born artist working in primitivism. Inspired by Gauguin, Picasso, and Cezanne, his paintings are still quite individual and recognizable. After Picasso’s death, Souza stated that he was the next greatest living artist.

Francis Newton Souza,

Fig. 1. Francis Newton Souza, 2002 (Wikipedia.org)

Souza with his wife Maria and daughter Shelley

Fig. 2. Souza with his wife Maria and daughter Shelley (indiatimes.com)

Against the Stream

Souza was born to Goan Catholic parents, who were a seamstress and a schoolteacher. Souza’s father passed away when the artist was three months old. His elder sister died soon after. These tragedies affected Souza in a Freudian way as he said that it felt like he somehow killed his father. The artist himself survived smallpox in infancy, so his mother named him after St. Francis Xavier, the patron of Goa. Souza was a troublemaking teenager. The administration of Xavier’s College expelled him for pornographic graffiti in the toilet. Later at the age of 16, he was ejected from the Sir J. J School of Art as a supporter of the Quit India movement demanding independence of India from Britain in the 1940s. Shortly after this, he joined the Communist Party of India and founded the Progressive Artists Group (PAG) in Bombay together with Krishnaji Howlaji Ara, Sadanand K. Bakre, Hari Ambadas Gade, Maqbul Fida Husain, and Syed Haider. At one of the Bombay shows, Souza exposed female nudes and his nude self-portrait that offended the public. Asked to either remove the self-portrait or to drape it with cloth, Souza covered genitals with a small piece of fabric, which attracted even more attention.

Francis Newton Souza Amsterdam Landscape

Fig. 3. Amsterdam Landscape, 1961 (freepressjournal.in)

Francis Newton Souza Houses on a Green Hill

Fig. 4. Houses on a Green Hill, 1964 (emamichiselart.wordpress.com)

Francis Newton Souza artist

Fig. 5. pinterest.com

Francis Newton Souza Man and Woman

Fig. 6. Man and Woman, 1954 (freepressjournal.in)

Nirvana of a Maggot

Being prosecuted by the Goan community for his paintings and intending to achieve prominence in Europe, Souza emigrated to London in 1949. Though his works were shown at Burlington house a previous year, he wasn’t a demanded artist and spent next six years in poverty. Together with his Goan wife Maria, Souza took up many jobs and lived almost on the streets. Their daughter Shelley claims that it was Maria, a talented artist and designer herself, who provided the family working as a lady’s maid at the Connaught Hotel. Public recognition came to Souza in 1955 after a publication of the autobiographic essay Nirvana of a Maggot in Stephen Spender’s Encounter magazine. Spender introduced Souza to the art dealer Victor Musgrave who organized his exhibition at Musgrave’s Gallery One the same year. Since this event, the artist was in sight of critics, and his works were being discussed and exposed.

Francis Newton Souza Indian Girl

Fig. 7. Indian Girl, 1962 (tumblr.com)

francis newton souza Blue Robe

Fig. 8. Blue Robe, 1961 (artlogic-res.cloudinary.com)

Francis Newton Souza nude

Fig. 9. Untitled, theartstrust.com

Francis Newton Souza Nude in a city background

Fig. 10. Nude in a city background, 1955 (saffronart.com)

Francis Newton Souza Birth

Fig. 11. Birth, 1955 (tfod.in)

The Most Expensive Love Affair

In 2008, Souza’s painting Birth (1955) was sold at Christie’s for 2.5 million dollars, which was the highest price for Indian art at that time. It depicts Souza’s mistress Liselotte pregnant with their daughter Keren. Souza met Liselotte, a Jewish stage actress, in 1954. Though they have three illegitimate daughters together, they both remained married to other people. Souza divorced his wife Maria in 1964, but not because of Liselotte. He did it to marry another mistress, Barbara Zinkant, who was sixteen years old. They moved to New York City in the 1970s. In 1977, they divorced. This time it was Barbara who left the artist to marry her extra-marital lover.

Francis Newton Souza Man and Woman art

Fig. 12. Man and Woman, 1959 (pinterest.com)

Francis Newton Souza lovers

Fig. 13. Untitled (Lovers), 1961 (tfod.in)

Francis Newton Souza Nude with Mirror

Fig. 14. Nude with Mirror, 1963 (tfod.in)

Francis Newton Souza paintings

Fig. 15. invaluable.com

Francis Newton Souza Nude Woman

Fig. 16. Nude Woman, 1950 (pinterest.com)

Francis Newton Souza prints

Fig. 17. pinterest.com

Francis Newton Souza biography

Fig. 18. Untitled, 1958 (ridingtheelephant.wordpress.com)

Francis Newton Souza untitled

Fig. 19. Untitled, 1962 (pinterest.com)

Paintings for Angels

Critics and curators think that the complicated character of Souza made him a great artist and a perverse human. There were no family members among a few who attended his funerals. Still, the popular opinion that a tough personality is what makes you genius sounds doubtful, as well as the tendency to regard the talent as an indulgence, though art doesn’t exist to justify “menschliches allzumenschliches.” Souza himself said that he was against such apologies indirectly manifested in the cult of beauty, so he tried to make his paintings aesthetically imperfect. “Renaissance painters painted men and women, making them look like angels. I paint for angels to show them what men and women really look like.” (deccanherald.com)

Francis Newton Souza British artist

Fig. 20. pinterest.com

francis newton souza Lovers in the Park

Fig. 21. Lovers in the Park, 1961 (fragmentsdevida.wordpress.com)

francis newton souza Lying nude

Fig. 22. Lying nude (pinterest.com)

Francis newton souza Two Women on a Sofa

Fig. 23. Two Women on a Sofa, 1966 (artlogic-res.cloudinary.com)

francis newton souza nude art

Fig. 24. Nude, 1986 (pinterest.com)

Francis Newton Souza Christ

Fig. 25. Christ (tfod.in)

Francis Newton Souza nude female

Fig. 26. Untitled, 1959 (dagworld.com)

Francis Newton Souza erotic

Fig. 27. Untitled, 1959 (dagworld.com)

Francis Newton Souza erotic painting

Fig. 28. Untitled, 1959 (dagworld.com)

Francis Newton Souza Seated Nude

Fig. 29. Seated Nude, 1962 (dagworld.com)

Francis Newton Souza Lingam And Yoni

Fig. 30. Lingam And Yoni, 1960

Click HERE for the expressive nude beauties of the Swiss Avant-garde artist Luciano Castelli….!!

Sources: Wikipedia.org; God, Sex & The City : an anthology of the work of Francis Newton Souza (tfod.in); A rebel, always (deccanherald.com); Souza – The heartless husband (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

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About the author
Darya is a philologist who lives and works in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is specialized in Russian literature.
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