Francis Newton Souza, a genius

F.N. Souza was born on April 12, 1924, in Saligoa, Goa, India, and died in Mumbai, India, on March 28, 2002, at the age of 77. He was the first of India's modern painters to achieve high recognition in the West. His work is in major museum collections around the world including the Tate. He left India in 1949 to live in London, moving to New York in 1967. New York remained his domicile until his death. (Estate of Francis Newton Souza)

"Je cherche la beauté davantage que la connaissance. En fait, la connaissance peut être laide."
"I seek Beauty more than knowledge. In fact, knowledge can be ugly."
Francis Newton Souza

Francis Newton Souza : Genius in the field of modern art. Bombay last month went into raptures over a Goan artist. He is 39 years old, Saligao-born, bearded Francis Newton Souza, whom art critics here and abroad have acclaimed a genius in the field of modern art. But there is nothing abstract or three-dimensional in the work of Souza, who is essentially original and individualistic, very much as he is in real life. Ben Antao (full article)

Francis Newton Souza by Ben Antao
When I learned that Francis Newton Souza died last week, (he would have been 78 on April 12, 2002) my mind traveled back to the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay in February of 1963 when Souza held a successful exhibition of his paintings.
I had interviewed him there for a feature article for The Navhind Times, the new English daily started in Panjim that very month. I grew curious to read what I had written about him, and wondered if I might be able to retrieve that article from the paper. (full article)

Souza is an image-maker- like Rouauft and Francis Bacon. His art lies in his power to strengthen the eye's image of this world by distorting it, until it becomes merely the language by which his own mental images are expressed, and the common ground on which we may come to terms with them. For although Souza is a figurative painter, nothing about his art is descriptive; there is no celebration of nature, no attempt to capture the effect of a sunset, no concern whatsoever with what is "particular" in life. Above all, there is nothing romantic about his paintings. "I hate the smell of paint," Souza has written in his brilliant autobiographical statement, WORD AND LINES; "Painting for me is not beautiful. It is as ugly as a reptile. I attack it." /.../
If one looks for the true roots of Souza's art one must look towards Rouault and Picasso, and more particularly towards Spanish and Portuguese Byzantine imagery, which made up a deep impression on him in the small Catholic enclave of Goa where he was brought up. Much of his art still retains the stiff, hieratic quality of Byzantine church imagery.
Edwin Mullins, London 1962

Srimati Lal and Francis Newton Souza

Francis Newton Souza est de ces artistes comme il en existe peu. « The true artist », l’artiste vrai, est une expression qu’il aimait utiliser. L’artiste évident. Comme Bacon, Picasso ou encore Basquiat et Combas, Souza est un artiste évident. L’œuvre comme le personnage semble être un condensé de l’idée que l’on se fait communément de l’artiste : entier, excessif et libre. Singulièrement à mi-chemin entre Picabia et Buffet, Souza a l’inventivité spontanée d’un Picasso, la violence révolutionnaire d’un Basquiat, la folie anthropomorphe d’un Bacon, le mysticisme noir d’un Rouault, l’acidité joyeuse d’un Toulouse Lautrec. Francis Newton Souza est tout cela, et en plus, il est lui, Francis, Newton et Souza. Œuvre féconde à côté de laquelle nous sommes passés, comme cela devait être, afin que l'artiste se révèle et que le mythe soit vrai.
Hervé Perdriolle

F.N. Souza : The Myth, the Fury, and the Silence . . . by Dom Martin
The risk of entering existence is that there is no coming out of it alive. Once enmeshed in existence, we find ourselves harnessed to the yoke of survival and plowing relentlessly through the fields of convention. Fear, diligence and piety keep us on course and orient us to conformity. Materialism, valor and the mythical, allow us to transgress and hopefully establish our place in time's hierarchy. Francis Newton Souza's myth began before he even took the first existential gulp of air. According to him, he was painting murals in his mother's womb. Interestingly enough, this feat was earlier eclipsed by Salvador Dali, who reputedly began the tradition of decorating the maternal cavern. Such foetal prowess certainly defies the natural, overlaps the supernatural, and leads the rest of us to seriously probe the anonymity of our own foetal endeavors! (full article)

F.N. Souza's Estate comprises a collection of artwork that spans six decades, from 1939-2001. It includes paintings, works on paper, diaries, an unfinished book titled "The Paragraph," which outlines his philosophy on art and life, an annotated library that embraces an array of topics, personal and business correspondence, and a large number of photographs. The pages which follow contain some of the paintings and works on paper in the Estate.