Lot 22
  • 22

FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA | Untitled (St. Paul's Cathedral)

9,000,000 - 11,000,000 INR
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  • Francis Newton Souza
  • Untitled (St. Paul's Cathedral)
  • Signed and dated 'Souza 61' upper left
  • Oil on board
  • 30 x 24 in. (76.2 x 60.9 cm.)
  • Painted in 1961


Gallery Espace, New Delhi 2004
Acquired from the above by the current owner


Minor craquelure is present in areas of thicker paint. Very minor accretions are visible throughout. There are areas where the artist has not fully covered the board with paint and this is visible sporadically across the surface but is part of the artist's process. There are minor spots of loss, only visible upon close scrutiny including in the lower right corner. Overall, the work is in very good condition, as viewed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Francis Newton Souza painted St Paul's in 1961, a period that was seen as a pivotal moment in the artist's career. Souza's stiff architectonic lines of his 1950s landscapes were replaced by a freer more fluid technique. As demonstrated here, his paintings from the early 1960s involved building up an image 'using a mass of loops and small circles of dark paint superimposed onto broad swathes of rich colour, so that although the image is never quite lost, its architectural formality dissolves into a kind of passionate dance.' (E. Mullins, F. N. Souza, Anthony Blond, London, 1962, p. 30).  Souza had moved to London from India twelve years earlier. Writing about Souza in 1961 Mullins describes the artist as 'An Indian painter, brought up a strict Roman Catholic under Portuguese colonial rule, later a member of the Communist Party and now (1961) living in London: these are the barest details about one of the most gifted and original modern artists. Those writers on art who even today look upon all new painting as the result of age-old cultural roots, must be rather baffled by such a history, for it bears witness to a great number of contradictory influences which make nonsense of conventional ideas of tradition.' (ibid. 1962, p. 5)

Souza's landscapes drew inspiration not only from the Catholic architecture of his native Goa but also from his immediate surroundings in North and Central London. During his time in London we see a number of depictions of local landmarks including Belsize Park and Hampstead Heath where he lived and worked. Interestingly this painting was produced a year after Souza visited Italy, resulting in a series of Rome paintings (Twenty Seven Paintings from Rome exhibited at Gallery One). In this painting you can see a similar treatment of the pointed arches and domed architectural forms that characterised this series.

Critics describing Souza's approach to landscapes during this period identify a distortion of form and a change in his vision of the city. 'Around 1960... Souza's landscapes begin to change drastically. A huge cracker seems to go off in the foundations of his cities and the buildings begin to sway and tumble and lean against each other in frantic postures.' (G. Kapur, Contemporary Indian Artists, Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1978, p. 30) 'His early cityscapes follow a rectilinear structure, which later in the 1960's give way to an apocalyptic vision. The tumbling houses in their frenzied movement are also symbolic of all things falling apart, of the very root of things being shaken.' (Y. Dalmia,  'A Passion for the Human Figure', The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2001, p. 93). This apocalyptic approach appears to be inspired by the same post-war angst that was influencing other British based artists like Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, and writers like T.S. Eliot at the time.