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Francis Newton Souza

Born, 1924 in Goa, India. Died, 2002

From the catalogue Commonwealth Artists of Fame 1952 - 1977 (Commonwealth Art GalleryLondon, 1 June - 3 July 1977):

“Souza was born in Goa, India, and studied first at the Sir J.J. School of Art, Bombay, and later in London at the Central School of Art and in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In 1947 he was a founder-member of the Progressive Artists’ Group and a year later his work was included in the exhibition of Indian Art at Burlington House. In 1949 he settled in London and exhibited regularly on his own or in group exhibitions in London, Paris, New York and elsewhere. He now lives in New York. Retrospective exhibitions of his work have been held, the most recent in Detroit in 1969, and he has received numerous awards including a prize in the John Moores Liverpool exhibition (1957), a Guggenheim Painting Award (1958) and an Italian Government Scholarship (1960). His published writings have appeared in a number of international journals. Francis Souza has developed a personal imagery which can be religious, violent, erotic or satirical; his powerful canvases have made him one of India’s most famous artists.”

A particularly important monograph on the artist was simply titled Souza. Written by Edwin Mullins, a writer, journalist and film-maker who was formerly art critic of The Sunday Telegraph,the book was published by Anthony Blond Ltd., London, 1962. The book consisted of several texts on Francis Newton Souza written by Mullins. From the book’s Preamble: “An Indian painter, brought up in a strict Roman Catholic under Portuguese colonial rule, later a member of the Communist Party, and now living in London: these are the barest details abbout one of the most gifted and original of modern artists. Those writers on art who even today look upon all new painting as the result of age-old cultural roots, must be baffled by such a history, for it bears witness to a great number of contradictory influences which make nonsense of conventional ideas of tradition.”

In the Short Biography section, Mullins writes, “… In spite of the confusion of names, Souza is entirely Indian by blood. His ancestors were among the many thouands of Goans who took on Portuguese names when they adopted Christianity four hundred and more years ago. The name Newton came into the family because his father - also Newton - had an English godfather. The name Francis was added a little later by Souza’s mother, in thanksgiving to Goa’s patron saint, St. Francis Xavier, for having rescued her son from an attack of smallpox.”

Later on, the text states, “The period 1949-1955 was a hard time for Souza. For those six years he tried to interest London galleries in his pictures, only to be told that they were not good enough. Once he and a friend carried an enormous picture from North Kensington where he lived to Bond Street  (the Underground would not take it), because a gallery had expressed a slight interest in his work; only to have it rejected, and then carry it all the way back to North Kensington.”

Francis Newton Souza’s work was included in the landmark exhibition The Other Story: Afro-Asian artists in post-war Britain, Hayward Gallery, London, 1989. A reproduction of his Crucifixion (1959) appeared in Mora Beauchamp-Byrd’s essay London Bridge: Late Twentieth Century British Art and the Routes of ‘National Culture’ in the catalogue for Transforming the Crown.

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click to show details of The Other Story - exhibition guide

»  The Other Story - exhibition guide

Exhibition guide relating to an exhibition, 1989

click to show details of The Other Story - Manchester invitation

»  The Other Story - Manchester invitation

Invite relating to an exhibition, 1990

click to show details of The Other Story - Wolverhampton invitation

»  The Other Story - Wolverhampton invitation

Invite relating to an exhibition, 1990

click to show details of Third Text: The Other Story

»  Third Text: The Other Story

Journal relating to an exhibition, 1989

click to show details of Transforming the Crown

»  Transforming the Crown

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1997

Related exhibitions

Related venues + view all 8

»  Aicon Gallery

London, United Kingdom

»  Cornerhouse

Manchester, United Kingdom

»  Hayward Gallery

London, United Kingdom

»  Manchester City Art Gallery

Manchester, United Kingdom

»  Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Wolverhampton, United Kingdom

Francis Newton Souza

Solo show at Julian Hartnoll’s Gallery. 1997
Date: 6 May, 1997 until 24 May, 1997
Curator: Julian Hartnoll
Organiser: Julian Hartnoll’s Gallery

Julian Hartnoll’s Gallery (at the time, located at 14 Mason’s Yard, off Duke Street,St James’s, London, SW1Y 6BU) was the venue for an exhibition of work by Francis Newton Souza, 6 - 24 May 1997. The exhibition came with a folded brochure, lavishly illustrated, containing very useful information and archival images of this fascinating artist. From the brochure text, by Julian Hartnoll:

“This is the first exhibition of Souza’s works in England since the Black Paintings were shown at Grosvenor Gallery in 1966; Souza left for the USA in 1967 and has lived there since. The present exhibition is intended to be, firstly, a re-introduction of an artist who, during the fifties and early sixties, was one of the most provocative and enigmatic artists working in England. John Berger, writing in 1955, was unusually lost for words in descriing his art ending his article “I can only recommend ‘readers to go and look for themselves’ “ - an exhortation I would endorse today.

This exhibition is also an introduction, for it includes a number of Souza’s ‘alterations’.” [One such work, uncredited, appears on the cover of the brochure].

Late on in his short text, Hartnoll continued, “There is a second introduction in this exhibition - that is to works from the period of the Progressive Artists’ Group. In 1947 Souza formed this group in Bombay with Husain, Ara, Raza, Gade and Bakra. The movement was short-lived; Souza who had written the manifesto, left India in 1949. Despite its brevity the movement, caught up in the new spirit of independence, is fundamental to the course of Indian art. It liberated young artists from the strictures of European teaching methods and from a poor parody of Indian classical art, whilst retaining the spirit of their national culture in modernistic terms. Bombay’s Museum of Modern Art has re-opened this year with a definitive exhibition of the Progressive Artists’ Group: the catalogue cover of the Bombay show reproduces a painting by Husain of Souza at his easel - the actual picture on which Souza was working is included in the present exhibition.”

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click to show details of Francis Newton Souza (Julian Hartnoll’s Gallery)

»  Francis Newton Souza (Julian Hartnoll’s Gallery)

Brochure relating to an exhibition, 1997

People in this exhibition

»  Francis Newton Souza

Born, 1924 in Goa, India. Died, 2002

Exhibition venues

»  Julian Hartnoll’s Gallery

London, United Kingdom