Francis Newton Souza (1924 to 2002)

~ Founder of India’s Progressive Art Movement ~

Art work by Francis Newton Souza Indian Artist

A pioneer of his time, Francis Newton Souza was the first Indian artist to be recognized globally. Hailed in the west as ‘India’s mystical expressionist,’ his fluid graphic style and thought provoking distortions of the human body evoke an emotional experience, which transforms conventional views.

Also a prolific writer, Francis Newton Souza famously said, “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.” Far from depicting human beings as perfect God like beings, the distorted faces of Souza’s paintings act as a mirror to reflect the disillusionment of the modern world - post two world wars and an era of colonial exploitation.

Whether he was painting or writing, Souza’s tendency to ‘tell it like it is’ resulted in his ingenious creation of the human form and the ‘head’ in particular. Souza left a blazing trail of his art that reinvents and uniquely depicts the human shape; while his ingenious themes both expose and confront, the excesses of the rich and social hypocrisy.

Some of his most renowned paintings include the ‘Byzantine Series’ (1958) ‘Beasts of Prey’ 1963 as well as the ‘landscapes’ and ‘heads’ he created between the 50s and 60s.

“He straddles several traditions, but serves none.” Art critic John Berger

Francis Newton Souza’s art has been influenced by Goa’s folk art, The Renaissance, European Landscapes of the 18th century and European Modernism, which uses geometric forms and distortions, to express effect. Like Picasso and cubist expressionist artists, Souza paints on the subjective canvas of emotions and ideas instead of objective reality. Whether he is painting the sacred or the erotic, the trail blazing power of his imagination is truly moving.


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Written by Veera Das: