LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON
LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON
PROPERTY OF AN EMINENT COLLECTOR
Oil on canvas
58 x 58 in. (147.4 x 147.4 cm.)
Signed and dated 'Souza 1984' upper left
In 1949, early in Souza's career, the art historian Dr. Hermann Goetz wrote, 'He [Souza] has shocked many who cannot imagine a green or blue red human body...who cannot stand a simplification intended to intensify an experience, or a distortion of proportions suggesting a sense of earthbound heaviness...who cannot face the frank statement of sex which is sublimated not by suppression, but by association and interplay with the experience of the soul.' (Dr Hermann Goetz, 'Rebel Artist: Francis Newton', Marg, vol. 3, no. 3, Mumbai, July 1949, p. 39)
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, but 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.
'The bare-breasted, unashamedly sexual women made by Souza are by now well-known. Yet with each encounter we are faced afresh with their voluptuous sexuality. A fact often overlooked is the tenderness, bordering on a caress with which the feminine contours are drawn. (Yashodhara Dalmia, The Demonic Line, exhibition catalogue, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2001, p. 6)
If there is ever a monstrous quality ascribed to a couple within Souza's oeuvre, it is the male who assumes the monstrous forms. In his earlier erotic works, Souza's male figures are frequently depicted with animal heads or hoof-like hands, but in the current work both figures are drawn realistically and gaze tenderly into each other's eyes. The dark brown skin of the male figure is in contrast to the soft pink of the female, and the slippers in the lower corner of the painting, which hint at a domestic setting, are perhaps symbolic of the artist's increasing age at the time of painting the work.
'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)
About The Artist:
FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924 - 2002)