Property from a Private Collection

Francis Newton Souza

Ask me why?

Auction Closed

October 26, 03:08 PM GMT


80,000 - 120,000 GBP

Lot Details


Property from a Private Collection

Francis Newton Souza

1924 - 2002

Ask me why?

Oil on canvas

Signed and dated 'Souza 66' upper centre and further titled and inscribed '84 / Ask me why?' on reverse

Bearing Grosvenor Gallery label on reverse of stretcher

76 x 51 cm. (29 ⅞ x 20 ⅛ in.)

Painted in 1966

Acquired from Grosvenor Gallery, London

If one studies the numerous sketches by Francis Newton Souza from the 1960s, it becomes clear that he remained tirelessly experimental. An entire sketchbook can be dedicated to various versions of the same head that vary only slightly in form or composition. Male heads can be swollen to the size of balloons with features condensed into small areas of the skull, each aspect of the form reworked over several images, or elsewhere the eyes or teeth can be replicated to create monstrous distortions. These sketches are revealing as they document the processes of an artist keen to stretch his own boundaries, all the while remaining true to his artistic vision.

When transposed into larger works on canvas, the process of experimentation continues, especially in relation to the medium. Unlike the bold formal oils of the 1950s created with thick black lines, Souza’s canvases from the 1960s became more fluid and his application of paint more varied. The current work from 1966, titled Ask me why?, is an especially striking rendering of the male subject from this period. With the vibrant, visually inviting palette, thick and fluent paint application and decorative border, the work ends up being as appealing as it is grotesque.