UNTITLED (STILL LIFE - GOAN KITCHEN)
UNTITLED (STILL LIFE - GOAN KITCHEN)
PROPERTY OF A FRIEND OF THE ARTIST
Oil on board
23 7/8 x 48 in. (60.6 x 122.4 cm.)
Signed and dated 'Souza 60' upper centre and inscribed and dated 'F.N. SOUZA / 1960' on reverse
In the West, from the classical Greco-Roman period to the Renaissance, elements of the still life were imbued with symbolic or ritual significance. The tradition evolves into its own genre in the later Renaissance, and reaches its zenith with Dutch painting of the 17th century. In India, the tradition of still life painting was introduced comparatively late, as part of the academic curriculum designed by British Colonial educators in the mid-19th century. Pestonji Bomanji and M.V. Dhurandhar were early Indian exponents of the category, creating impressive examples painted in the formal, academic style. Their focus became the play of light and dark within an intimate setting, and the realistic rendering of textures and tones. Any hidden symbolism or allegorical references, were, for the most part, overlooked.
Of the Indian modernists, it was Souza who took most readily to the genre, recognising in it the formal elements of the Western tradition, as well as an opportunity to explore his own fascination with Christian iconography. In a continued reflection of the strong, albeit complicated influence the Catholic Church had upon the artist, Souza's still life compositions almost always include some elements used in liturgical practice. In his own words, 'It was the Roman Catholic Church in Goa that gave me any ideas of images and image making.' (Edwin Mullins, F.N. Souza, London, 1962, p. 53) Lot 15 in the current sale, depicting three chalices placed on an altar table, each with the circular disks of the sacrament floating above them, represents one such example.
In the current lot, however, the treatment of the still life, both in its choice of objects and in the manner of its composition is markedly different. Although the stemmed cups placed on the table at first glance may be assumed to be the chalice of the Eucharist, and the red dot potentially the bread of the Sacrament, the other objects placed around these items do not seem to follow an ecclesiastical theme. Rather, Souza appears to have chosen objects that provide unusual, abstracted forms. The painting as a whole appears more as a rare experiment in formalised, geometric abstraction.
Unlike his more religiously inspired still life compositions, the current painting also does not have the characteristic chequerboard patterned background. Instead, the objects almost merge with the background tones; each one defined rather by thick, black outlines and cross-hatched lines that provide volume. It is, as though, in this instance, Souza was consciously breaking free from the self-imposed structures of his earlier compositions to forge a new idiom for this genre.
The colours of the original are close to the catalogue illustration, but the redtones are marginally richer than they appear in the catalogue illustration and theblack outlines of the objects appear darker in the original than the catalogueillustration. The painting has been recently cleaned and varnished. Minor areasof thick impasto have been consolidated. The extreme edges of the board haveminor chips and abrasions. The corners of the board are rounded and there is aminor chip at the centre of the lower edge, not visible in the catalogueillustration. Minor spots of retouching within the brick red colour to the left ofthe signature and in the mouth of the pot beneath the signature are partiallyvisible under UV light. Overall good condition.
About The Artist:
FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924-2002)