An Intriguing Group Show Explores the Ethnic Identities of India’s Diaspora Artists
I like Barcelona, though, and I hope to return frequently. Lovely women, good food and drink, the beach, the town, the landscape. (F. N. Souza, Letter to Victor Musgrave, Barcelona, 1958, p. 1)
Souza's landscapes from the 1950s underscored what the artist perceived to be the hypocritical and intimidating forces of society, typically rendered using a dark and somber palette. In comparison, Sa Penya Ibiza is a remarkably, liberated work rendered in shimmering, sun-drenched lucidity. Painted during a joyous sojourn, daubs of white impasto punctuated with pastel reflections, conjure waves of heat and radiant light bouncing off the white washed walls. As noted by Edwin Mullins just a few years later, in comparing Souza to Spain's most famous modernist: "Like Picasso he is restlessly inventive, and the subtlety of his art is at times masked by the sheer vigour of his brushwork." (E. Mullins, Souza, London, 1962, p. 39)
Signature: signed and dated 'Souza 59' (upper right); signed, titled and dated 'F.N. SOUZA / SA PENYA IBIZA / 1959' (on the reverse)
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.