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ART & CRAFT

‘My father was one of the greatest and best fine artists of all time’

Life&More April 2, 2019
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FP Souza, the son of Francis Newton Souza, shares thoughts on the legendary artist

Saurabh Tankha

Come April 5 and the best of Francis Newton Souza’s works ever will appear for any auction. A legend and founding member of the Progressive Artist’s group in Bombay during 1947 era, a leading member of the Indian avant-garde, Souza was and is a big inspiration to many artists across the world. The auction will hold spectacular Souza paintings like Lamani Women, Abstract Head 3 and Portrait of Martim Afonso.

The FN Souza International Fine Arts Foundation and Family Trust, which owns a large collection of art by the late master modernist Francis Newton Souza, is back to set another mark at Aspire Auctions, Cleveland Ohio USA. Authenticity certificates signed and notarised by FN Souza are available with all paintings. We spoke with the celebrated artist’s son, Francis Patrick Souza about the auction, the artist and the artworks…


Back in 2008, his painting Birth (1955) set a world auction record for the most expensive Indian painting sold till then by selling for US$2.5 million (Rs 11.3 crore) at a Christie’s auction. In 2015, Birth was resold at Christie’s in New York, fetching more than US$4 million. What are your expectations this time round?
As usual, a very good if not great price will be secured for these Souza works.  The FN Souza Foundation is in the process of expanding into Europe and the prestigious auction houses there in the near future.

A lot of fakes come up in the market which claims to have been painted by your father. Though you are the only legal heir to all this works, how do you ensure which one is original and which one not?
I, along with my great aunt Vita De Souza, are the two people who can truly authenticate dad’s works and I am the only person who is a genuine authority on his authentic work and who can make out the forgeries in a Manhattan minute.

Why, according to you, someone who has watched an artist from close quarters is that an artist is valued more after he has departed from the mortal world?
I feel in some cases this is because people don’t realise and appreciate the artist’s work until he or she has physically left this plateau. And the public is certain the artist can no longer produce their own work for the obvious reasons that they have passed on. So the body of work is no limited to whatever the artist produced when they were here. The same could be said on a more personal level, for instance when someone passes on,  sometimes one only truly begins to love and appreciate certain characteristics and qualities that person had, that one didn’t even notice when they were here.

Your memories of FN Souza, the father?
My father was a wonderful father. Extremely affectionate and loving. Playful and warm.

Was he a better father or a better painter?
He was definitely a genius as a fine artist. Therefore, I can’t compare his parental skills to his vocational ones. He was a good father but at times immature and self-absorbed to the point where I felt like the parent on certain levels at least. But we had a great relationship and he would often come to me for advice and support. He absolutely adored his beautiful grandchildren by me.

How do you rate him as a painter?
My father was one of the greatest and best fine artists of all time.

Apart from him, who among his contemporaries do you like?
I love Picasso’s work and Salvador Dali’s and there are some German contemporary artists I can appreciate. Among the South Asian artists, I have admired some of Raza and MF Husain’s works and I really like Jamini Roy’s paintings.

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