Francis Newton Souza, ‘Elder’, 1951, Christie's South Asian + Chinese

Elder was painted only two years after Souza arrived in London. He struggled in these years as a young Goan in London aspiring to be a successful painter.

Elder was perhaps a product of a nostalgic yearning for home as this figure is reminiscent of the catholic clergy so prominent in Portuguese Goa during his childhood. "The Roman Catholic Church had a tremendous influence over me, not its dogmas but its grand architecture and the splendour of its services. The priest dressed in richly embroiled vestments, each of his garments from the biretta to the chasuble symbolising the accoutrement of Christ's passion." (F. N Souza, 'A Fragment of Autobiography', Words & Lines, 1997, New Delhi, p.10)

This painting is also reminiscent of works by French painter Georges Rouault, particularly his half-length Old King from 1916. Souza pays homage to the artist not only in choice of subject, but also in palette and sentiment - epitomized by the thick impastos and rich coloring which is reminiscent of stained glass windows. Souza successfully imbues the work with the same melancholic grandeur for which Rouault was renowned.

Signature: signed 'Souza' and dated '1951' (upper left)


Gallery One, London

Acquired from the above by the previous owner

Thence by descent

About Francis Newton Souza

Francis Newton Souza was one of the first painters to achieve international recognition from a newly independent India, as well as a leading figure of its avant-garde movement. As a result of his time spent abroad, Souza’s style drew heavily from Expressionism and Art Brut. Often referred to as the “Indian Picasso”, Souza became known for his aggressive lines and thick application of color. He was fascinated with images of the sacred and the profane, and the boundary that divided them; his favorite subjects included the human figure, frequently depicted engaging in erotic acts and organized rituals of religion. Souza was also responsible for co-founding the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group in 1947, which sought to encourage artists to depict Indian subject matter with Western Modernist styles.

Indian, 1924-2002