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Man in Checked Shirt

Man in Checked Shirt

Item Description:


Oil on board


47 ½ x 23 ½ in. (120.6 x 59.7 cm.)

Signed and dated 'Souza 59' upper right and inscribed 'F.N. SOUZA / 48 x 24"' on reverse


Balraj Khanna & Aziz Kurtha, Art of Modern India, London, 1998, p. 63, illustrated.

Aziz Kurtha, Francis Newton Souza Bridging Western and Indian Modern Art, Ahmedabad, 2006, p. 192, illustrated.

From the outset of his career Souza was a figurative painter, and the central themes for his paintings tend to oscillate between voluptuous female forms and rather uncomfortable tortured male figures, often presented in the manner of religious icons. The current work, painted on a plain background, of a lone male figure dressed in blue checks, falls into the second category. At first glance, the figure appears to be a somewhat conventional depiction of a man of the modern age, but the addition of a checked round-necked robe hints at the religious iconography of the Roman Catholic Church that inspired Souza throughout his career.

‘Souza’s particular strength lies not in his refusal to admit the importance of abstract art, but in his capacity to find in figurative painting everything that he needs; so much so, that he cannot understand why any other artist can do anything else. “To paint abstract paintings is quite impossible.” Souza has written, “it’s like trying to paint thin air and those who think they do are fooling themselves. They claim to be going ‘beyond’. Beyond what? Beyond zero is minus. They say the spectator must bring his own imagination to work upon their painted surfaces, which means that the spectator should do all the work. It’s another instance of the Emperor’s clothes. And if this is “art”, then I’m the little boy who shouts “it’s naked!”."’ (Edwin Mullins, Souza, London, 1962, p. 36)

The format of the current painting is part of a series of works that Souza produced during the latter half of the 1950s, which recreate on a grander scale his tightly composed pen and ink heads of the early 1950s. Although the composition draws upon the religious paintings of Titian and Raphael, the line is distinctly Souza’s own. In 1962 Edwin Mullins compared Souza to Picasso stating 'with his finest paintings… the concentrated passion with which they were created may seem to burn over the canvas, yet the nature of the passion is less easy to place. They are full of apparent contradictions: agony wit, pathos and satire, aggression and pity. Their impact is certain but few people are able to explain what has hit them. Like Picasso, too, his interventions have tended to be thought outrageous, because the imagination that created them was discovering something about the visual world which no one as yet understood or which everyone had forgotten.’ (ibid., p. 37)

The strength of the work is that it appears to be the combination of 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 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)

About The Artist:


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Man in Checked Shirt

Listed price: $12,000,000.00

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