Oil on canvas
52 x 33 1/2 in. (132.2 x 85 cm.)
Signed and dated 'Souza 87' upper right
'The human body continues to stir passion, cause controversy and compel interest... All artworks of the body are potentially 'potent', in as much as they are used to sway our opinions or influence our actions. Souza's women standing tall and self possessed on his canvas question the passivity of women, the youthful ideal of beauty, reject all coyness and prettification, stressing a raw earthy photographic physicality as if flesh were one of the new materials of the age, like concrete glass and steel. He disassembles found imagery and reassembles its parts to invent a new modern woman. He brings in an intense scrutiny through his fantasies, dreams and obsessions painting women in the hope of gaining new insight of the visceral, the animal, the sexual and the intuitive in works of sometimes Dionysian excess, illuminating and subverting repressive cultural institutions particularly those which subjugate and degrade the female body.' (Jugneeta Sudan, 'F N Souza's Female Nude: Telling a story, preferably a moral one', republished online, www.thuscritique.com)
Throughout his life, Souza painted the female nude and couples in erotic embrace in many forms and they remained central to his work. His early paintings were influenced by the voluptuous forms of classical Indian temple carving, and on his move to London, the artist increasingly absorbed more European influences. It has been suggested that Spanish Romanesque art inspired his iconic stances and frontal compositions, but by the 1980s, his sources of inspiration are multiple; drawing in equal parts from classical paintings, personal experiences and pornographic magazines.
Souza's nudes go beyond the boundaries of classical conventions, and unlike his contemporary Husain, there is no attempt to maintain the 'innocence' of folk art; his intention is rather to face the contemporary world head on. At the age of seventy two, in a letter to his friend Julian Hartnoll, Souza explains that he aims to complete a series of 'scandalous' works 'more erotic than Eros can contain.' From such correspondence it is clear that whilst Souza's intention was in part to shock, his works were also completed with tenderness, and in good humour.
'Not all of Souza's nudes are libidinal, some are mere objects for assault or wish-fulfillment. His taut earlier nudes later give way to massive women with pendulous breasts and pneumatic hips, almost without weight. Could these conjured visions be forming a tensile equation with his own mellowing sexual ability? These mammoreal women in his later works assume iconic stances as the goddesses Lakshmi or Parvati, harking back to the earlier monumentality. The fixed frontal poses of Souza's earlier nudes were charged with an energy that pulsated on the flat surface... Woman as sex, life, and nature are a continuous strain in most of Souza's works and he invests them with age-old powers of fecundity.' (Yashodhara Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art, New Delhi, 2001, p. 92)
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About The Artist:
FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924-2002)