Born in Goa in 1924, FN Souza was the first post-independence Indian artist to achieve acclaim in the west. He was also the founding member of the Progressive Artists group in 1947 and is best known for his inventive human iconic forms, particularly ‘heads.’
“Head”, 1956, 29.5” x 21.75”, Watercolour on paper, Image Courtesy : Saffronart
Souza was known for distorting heads in a grotesque style, which are challenged conventions in nature. Being an iconoclast and image maker, heads were the most recurrent themes in his paintings even after moving to different mediums and imagery. Heads with cuspidated lines, eyes fixed on the forehead, mouth filled with a collective set of teeth and stretched like hair combs – all were significant of his views of the evil in society and the people and objects that surrounded him. The circuitous heads of the 1950’s created with thick cross-hatching got further deformed in the early 1960’s.
“Head of an old man”, 1964, 30” x 24”, Oil on board, Image Courtesy : Saffronart
“Untitled”, 1990, 11” x 8”, Chemical alterations on paper, Image Courtesy : Saffronart
His distinguishing turnout led to a comparison with Pablo Picasso – torture, poignancy and wit, hostility and pity. “As you know Picasso redrew the human face and they were magnificent. But, I’ve drawn the physiognomy way beyond Picasso in completely new terms. And I am still a figurative painter”, he had said.