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Profile of a Man

Profile of a Man

Item Description:


Oil on board


39 x 24 in. (99.1 x 60.9 cm.)

Signed and dated 'Souza 56' upper right and further signed, dated and inscribed 'F. N. SOUZA / Profile of a Man-1956 / 39 x 24" / acrylic on Board' on reverse


Francis Newton Souza Important Paintings from the Artist's Private Collection, exhibition catalogue, Bose Pacia Modern, New York, 1998, unpaginated, illustrated.

The current work was most recently exhibited at F. N. Souza's 1998 exhibition at Bose Pacia Modern in New York. The exhibition presented paintings from the artist's own collection that Souza had retained throughout his career. The introduction to the catalogue states, 'Perhaps the artist's oeuvre is best understood in the context of Souza as destroyer. His life and work has been informed by the systematic destruction of the staid and banal - destruction of the ordinary, vapid conceptions of beauty, colour and form and the subsequent reconstruction of the tenets in his own heretic, angst driven, yet paradoxically fluid and easy rendition... Unlike a retrospective that tends to lead the viewer to a conclusion and implied finality, this exhibition is more a recapitulation of an adventurous life that has befallen a brilliant and unsuspecting man.' (Francis Newton Souza Important Paintings from the Artist's Private Collection, exhibition catalogue, Bose Pacia Modern, New York, 1998, unpaginated)

Although the destructive element of Souza's artistic process is best understood in the context of his chemical alterations on paper, it is also revealed in this work, as he uses a technique not often see within Souza's early paintings. The work, at first glance, seems to follow a deceptively simple linear composition of a head in profile, the lines constructed in the manner of his drawings. However, unlike many of his other early oils, these thick black contours are not in-filled with single areas of glowing colour applied with a brush. Instead, the face and tunic of the figure are highly textured and appear as if scrubbed or sanded down. This technique and the use of acrylics in the current painting reveals Souza's desire to be continuously experimental and it appears to be a pre-cursor to some of his works of the early 1960s, where Souza added sand or grit to his pigments to create a more textured surface. In March 1956, Gallery One re-opened in London, and shortly after its reopening, Victor Musgrave hosted Souza's second solo show at the gallery. Almost simultaneously, Souza met Harold Kovner in Paris, who became one of his most influential patrons providing him with a monthly stipend in return for paintings. Over the same period, Souza painted several of his most iconic works including Birth (1955), Tycoon and The Tramp(1955), and Titian's Grandfather (1955). Importantly, many of these most powerful images are of Christian subjects, referencing his childhood experiences of being brought up in Goa as a Roman Catholic. Geeta Kapur explains, 'the recurring portraits of priests, prophets, cardinals, and Popes are... to be taken literally for what they are but also symbolically as representatives of institutions and authority, only more treacherous in that they claim divine sanction... It is this double connotation of fact and symbol and his interlocked feelings of secret fascination and objective disgust which make Souza's handling of religious figures so unique.' (Geeta Kapur, Contemporary Indian Artists, New Delhi, 1978, p. 20)

The current work does not clearly identify the figure as a saint or priest, but the man wears a smock with a decorative border that is similar to many identifiably religious figures in his other paintings. Here, Souza has not pierced the figure's neck with the arrows of martyrdom, nor is there an overtly monstrous presentation of the figure as a whole. Rather, the painting seems unusually serene and calm in its form. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the Prophet figures created by Akbar Padamsee four years earlier, which Souza would have seen when he exhibited alongside Padamsee in Paris.

'Wherever he went, Souza took with him the iconography of his Catholic faith. He rediscovered himself in the saints and sinners and martyrs of the Bible. And in womanhood, Souza found solace and comfort, and the fecundity and regenerative power of Nature. His works oscillate between these two poles of abnegation and exultation. And because of the elemental and universal nature of this experience, his works touch us deeply.' (Ebrahim Alkazi, The Alkazi Collection: F.N. Souza - A Tribute, exhibition catalogue, New Delhi, unpaginated)

# Import duty at 11% will be charged on the hammer price and GST will be applicable on the total amount of the hammer price plus the import duty.


The colours of the original are similar with sharper lines and crisper detailing than the catalogue illustration. Overall good condition.

About The Artist:


₹ 6,000,000.00 ( Low est. )
Lot 44# in The Fine Art Sale including Classical Paintings (M0029)
AUCTION DATE: Jan 21, 2021 at 6:30pm IST



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