In the Name of the Father

The Souza family parts with over 100 works of the maverick artist,to be auctioned today

Written by Vandana Kalra | Published:September 11, 2013 5:43 am

It was years before FN Souza travelled to London to accomplish his dreams. The Progressive Artists Group was yet to be established. Then known as the young Newton from Goa,he headed to Mumbai to fulfil his artistic pursuits. Being suspended from the JJ School of Art for his support of the Quit India Movement did not deter his plans. Instead,he was in his studio translating the Goan landscapes on his gouache. While it’s rather difficult to find the renowned artist’s work from that period,his family has now parted with one — a 1945 gouache with thick brushstrokes. “The gouache of Marmagoa Harbour painted when he was just 20 years old,during his brief stint at JJ School,represents one of the fine natural harbours in Goa,Souza’s birthplace and shows Souza’s skill at that young age.” says Abha Housego,Vice President,Saffronart and Head of the Souza Sale.

For Housego,the untitled work is “Lot No 81”. It will come under the hammer along with more than 100 works by Souza in an auction dedicated to the artist that will take place in Mumbai today. It will simultaneously taken place online. Titled “Francis Newton Souza: Works from the Collection of Keren Souza Kohn”,this was being planned for a while,after Souza’s eldest daughter Kohn touched base with Saffronart. A practicing artist herself,she recalls assisting her father on The Game (1987) exhibited at the Hayward Gallery,London,in 1989. “Working with him was a lot of fun and a big honour,one which I didn’t fully appreciate until recently. The fun was Francis and Francis was fun,so giggly that it was infectious. We would cry laughing. Such a sense of humour,always seeing the amusing and the ridiculous which protected him from man’s darkness. But at the same time a live wire of a very rare seriousness,” she says.

For the Mumbai auction,Israel-based Kohn has shortlisted works in varied media — from oil paintings to watercolours,and drawings to chemical alterations — estimated to fetch a total of Rs 2.38 crore to Rs 3.35 crore. Among the highlights is the1967 Head (Weeping Woman),where Souza interprets Pablo Picasso’s well-known series of works from 1937 featuring the weeping woman from his epic mural Guernica. While Picasso’s weeping woman was based on Dora Maar,his mistress and muse,Souza’s skull-like visage embodied his critical view of the powerful members of high society. Another 1958 Untitled (Saint in a Landscape) ink on paper represents the artist’s engagement with Catholicism. The highest estimate is reserved for the 1968 figurative oil The Man from After,expected to fetch between Rs 25 lakh to Rs 35 lakh.

The proceeds from the auction will be used to expand the Souza Kohn Gallery and Studios in Israel. For Kohn,this is a moment when she’ll part with some of her father’s works. “He knew exactly where to begin and when to stop. So he just danced all over his composition with brushwork so no one area was laboured or muddled. All was lucid,clean and metamorphosed from mundane physicality to a work of pure sublime ‘Art’,” says the daughter.

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