Francis Newton Souza, Amrita Sher-Gil and Other Masters of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art

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The Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art sale on 10 June comprises an incredible array of paintings, sculptures and prints by some of the most important artists from India and the subcontinent. The sale is led by a monumental 1958 painting by Francis Newton Souza and a very rare Amrita Sher-Gil landscape. Other works include important paintings by Maqbool Fida Husain and a striking composition by Arpita Singh. Click the image above to view the slideshow.

Francis Newton Souza, Amrita Sher-Gil and Other Masters of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art

  • Francis Newton Souza, Untitled, Oil on board, 1958, Estimate £600,000–800,000
    In this monumental painting from 1958, Francis Newton Souza appears to reference the Old Testament story of Susanna and the Elders. This was a theme which recurred throughout Souza’s œuvre, and was one which enabled him to reveal the abuses enacted by persons of power. With the bold graphics and subtle effects of layering and feathered brushstrokes throughout, this painting has a dominating presence. The work is also marked by its provenance of two stalwarts of the British arts scene, Victor Musgrave of Gallery One and Victor Arwas.
  • Amrita Sher-Gil, Trees, Oil on canvas, 1939, Estimate £500,000–700,000
    Trees, painted in 1939 and executed with artistic maturity, is a charming example of the universal appeal of Amrita Sher-Gil's œuvre. It forms part of her corpus of work painted in Hungary, her place of birth and a country of much artistic inspiration. This evocative landscape is a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire a work painted by Sher-Gil that is outside of India and in free circulation.
  • Maqbool Fida Husain, Untitled (Sitar Players), Oil on canvas, 1970, Estimate £150,000–200,000
    Within this modern interpretation of the classical tradition of Ragamala paintings, Maqbool Fida Husain depicts musicians using a warm, earthy palette and gestural and fluid brushwork. The muted browns and ochre are the dominant colours, giving this painting a mood of quiet melancholy, perhaps reflecting the longing for an absent lover, the theme of numerous Ragamala miniatures.
  • Maqbool Fida Husain, Untitled (Praying Woman), Oil on canvas, 1958, Estimate £100,000–150,000
    Maqbool Fida Husain’s first-hand encounters with the paintings of Paul Klee, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso during his travels to Europe in 1953 had a decisive impact on his art. In this painting from 1958, Husain’s Indian sensibility has merged with aspects of European Modernism. The kneeling woman is set against a geometric background which shows a sun rising over a sloping hill, providing the day’s first rays of light. The woman is rendered with white and blue blocks of colour and stark red outlines.
  • Francis Newton Souza, Untitled (Landscape), Oil on board, 1964, Estimate £100,000–150,000
    This landscape from 1964 by Francis Newton Souza marks an interesting admixture of influences. The vibrant colours are reminiscent of his work executed in Goa, and the disjointed depiction of a church relates to the artist’s time in Europe from 1949. The powdered blue and white sky is in constant flux and tension; indeed, Souza’s landscapes of the 1960s appear chaotic in their compositions. There is, however, an evident joy in the use of thick oils applied liberally to the board, with layers of colour built upon one another and then merged together with swift strokes of the brush or knife.
  • Arpita Singh, Counting Flowers: My Benares Saree, Oil on canvas, 1997, Estimate £80,000–120,000
    With its bright colours, childish scrawlings, dream-like perspective and curious figures, Counting Flowers: My Benares Saree is an archetypal example of Arpita Singh's artistic style. The painting is broadly separated into two planes of contrasting cyan and yellow, colours which are further juxtaposed with flashes of candy-floss pink. Singh's masterful handling of paint and colour is one of many reasons she is celebrated as a pre-eminent modernist painter.
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