MAN AT TABLE
MAN AT TABLE
PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED COLLECTOR
Oil on board
29 3/4 x 24 in. (75.5 x 61 cm.)
Signed and dated 'Souza 58' lower right and inscribed 'F.N. SOUZA / MAN AT TABLE / OIL ON BOARD / 30" x 24"' on reverse
'Some of the most moving of Souza's paintings are those which convey a spirit of awe in the presence of a divine power - a God, who is not a God of gentleness and love, but rather of suffering, vengeance and of terrible anger. In his religious work there is a quality of fearfulness and terrible grandeur which even Rouault and Sutherland have not equalled in this century.' (Edwin Mullins, F.N. Souza, London, 1962, p. 40)
Francis Newton Souza was born and brought up in the Portuguese Catholic colony of Goa, and it was here that he encountered the religious iconography that was to provide him with many of the basic elements of his artistic vocabulary. His compositions throughout the 1950s include numerous works depicting Christ, the Church, Saints and Priests, as well as still life compositions replete with liturgical objects. The current work, although titled somewhat vaguely, Man at Table , remains firmly entrenched within this religious tradition.
The central figure of the current lot appears to be a priest with teeth bared and hands raised in prayer. He is seated in front of the religious vessels of the Eucharist, including the chalice and ciborium, a composition that follows several similar paintings from earlier in the decade including Man with Still Life (1953) and Mystic Repast (1953). Likewise, the still life objects within the current composition are almost identical in form to elements of another Untitled still life created in the same year, but the treatment of the painted surface, and the structural elements of this composition are distinctly different.
The background of the current work is filled with swirling 's'-shaped forms that are reflected in the lower portions of the priest's robes and again in the handles of the liturgical objects. Similarly, the geometric patterns of his robe are reflected in the body of the ciborium. The application of colour, interestingly, is distinctly different to compositions from earlier in the decade. The thickly applied paint of the background is scratched and etched to create a highly textured surface, and unlike earlier paintings where a single block of colour is enclosed within thick black outlines, here, the colours appear to have been applied beneath the black, allowing them to merge and blend in a manner that reveals an evolution in Souza's painterly style. The overall effect seems to intentionally blend the figure with his surroundings, a device that was to become more pronounced in compositions from the following decade.
The work combines several genres that were important to the artist. 'The importance of Francis Newton Souza the young Goan painter who has settled in London is that he has resolved the dilemma of style as no other modern Indian artist has done. He has crossed Indian bazaar painting with the Picasso style ...to produce a manner that is at once individual and consistent and which might be said to suggest a caricature of a Byzantine icon.' (David Sylvester, 'A Goan Painter', New Statesman, 14 December 1957)
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About The Artist:
FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924 - 2002)