F. N. Souza

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F. N. Souza
Indian artist of Goan origin, Francis Newton Souza.jpg
Francisco Victor Newton de Souza

(1924-04-12)12 April 1924
Died28 March 2002(2002-03-28) (aged 77)
NationalityPortuguese, then British
Known forPainting, Drawing
Notable work
"Birth", "Words and Lines"
Maria Figueiredo
(m. 1946; div. 1964)
Barbara Zinkant
(m. 1965; div. 1977)
Partner(s)Liselotte Kohn (1954–1961)
Srimati Lal (1993–2002)
ChildrenShelley Souza
Keren Souza-Kohn
Francesca Souza-Kohn
Anya Souza-Kohn
Francis Patrick Souza

Francis Newton Souza (12 April 1924 – 28 March 2002) was a British artist. He was a founding member of the Progressive Artists' Group of Bombay. Souza's style exhibited both decadence and primitivism.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Francis Newton Souza was born Francisco Victor Newton de Souza to Goan Catholic parents in the village of Saligão. After his father and then his elder sister passed away, he and his mother moved to Mumbai in 1929.[2] Souza's mother remarried, and his half-brother was the painter Lancelot Ribeiro.[3]

Souza attended St. Xavier's College in Bombay, but he was expelled for drawing obscene graffiti in the restrooms.[4]

He then studied at the Sir J. J. School of Art in Bombay but was also expelled from that school in 1942, because of his support for the Quit India Movement.[4] Souza joined the Communist Party of India soon after, and co-founded the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group in 1947.[5]


In 1948, Souza's paintings were shown in London's Burlington House as part of an exhibition on Indian Art. However, his work was attacked by the Goan community in Mumbai during an exhibition at Chemould Frames.[6] Souza emigrated to London in 1949, following several complaints against him to the police from the Indian public for obscenity.[7]

He initially struggled to make an impact as an artist in the UK.[7] His Goan wife Maria (mother of his daughter Shelley) took on multiple jobs in order to support their family.[8] The Institute of Contemporary Arts included his work in a 1954 exhibition. Souza met a married Jewish stage actress named Liselotte de Kristian (neé Kohn) in 1954, and she became his mistress. They never married (Souza remained married to Maria, while Liselotte remained married to her husband Richard) in spite of having three illegitimate daughters (Keren, Francesca, Anya) together.[9][10]

His success as an artist took off following the publication in 1955 of his autobiographical essay Nirvana of a Maggot in Stephen Spender's Encounter magazine. Spender introduced Souza to the art dealer Victor Musgrave. Souza's 1955 exhibit at Musgrave's Gallery One sold out, leading to ongoing success. In 1959, Souza published his autobiographical Words and Lines.[11]

Souza's career developed steadily, and he participated in several shows, receiving positive reviews from John Berger. According to Berger, Souza's style "was deliberately eclectic: essentially Expressionist in character", but "also drawing on the post-war Art Brut movement and elements of British Neo-romanticism".[1]

Souza's affair with Liselotte ended in 1961.[10] He divorced his wife Maria in 1964 in order to marry his latest mistress, the 16-year-old Barbara Zinkant. He moved to New York City with his new wife in 1967. Their son Francis Patrick was born in 1971, but Souza's wife Barbara then divorced him in 1977 to marry her own extra-marital lover.[12]

Souza returned to India after his second divorce. Srimati Lal was his mistress from 1993 till his death.[13] F. N. Souza died on 28 March 2002 from a heart attack and was buried in Sewri Christian Cemetery in Mumbai. Only a few persons attended the funeral, none of them family members or members of Souza's Goan community.[6][7]


The renowned Indian artist, M.F. Husain, recognized F. N. Souza as his mentor.[9] In recent years, Souza's paintings have been sold for over a million dollars.[14] His painting Birth (1955) depicting his mistress Liselotte Kohn posing naked while pregnant with their first daughter Keren,[4] set a world auction record in 2008 for the most expensive "Indian" painting sold till then when it was purchased by Tina Ambani for US$2.5 million (Rs 11.3 crore) at a Christie's auction. In 2015, the painting Birth was resold to Kiran Nadar at Christie's in New York, fetching more than US$4 million.[15]

In June 2010 Christie's held an auction of over 140 lots from the Souza estate. Many of Souza's works fetched very high prices, some several times Christie's estimates.[16]

Souza's illegitimate grandson by his married Jewish mistress Liselotte de Kristian (neé Kohn)[9][10] is the British-Israeli street artist Solomon Souza, known best for his murals in the Mahane Yehuda Market.[17]

At an auction of Souza's painting The Last Supper (1990) held by Sotheby's in 2019, his former muse and fellow artist Nimisha Sharma interrupted the auction after the bidding had ended. She asked repeatedly who was the artist’s “+” in his signature for that painting. Observers later speculated it was her way of telling the art world that she had painted it along with him.[18]

Public collections[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chopra, Ashok (2016). A Scrapbook of Memories. India: Harper Collins. ISBN 9789352641123.
  2. ^ Grimes, William (9 April 2020). "Overlooked No More: F.N. Souza, India's Anti-Establishment Artist". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  3. ^ Buckman, David (23 October 2011). "Lancelot Ribeiro: Artist in the vanguard of the influx of Indian artists to Britain". The Independent. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Raaj, Neelam (18 September 2015). "With $4m art record, Souza sizzles". The Times of India.
  5. ^ Gehi, Reema (27 September 2015). "Mr. Souza's baggage was always excess". The Times of India.
  6. ^ a b Maddox, Georgina (9 February 2019). "An exhibition captures F N Souza's early years as an artist". The Hindu.
  7. ^ a b c Khasnis, Giridhar (3 October 2009). "A rebel, always". Deccan Herald.
  8. ^ Nair, Uma (11 March 2014). "Souza - The Heartless Husband". The Times of India.
  9. ^ a b c Singh, Khushwant (6 May 2006). "A Maverick Painter". The Telegraph (India).
  10. ^ a b c Carvalho, Selma (2 September 2013). "A morning with F N Souza's daughters". State of the Art.
  11. ^ Souza, F. N. (1959). Words and Lines. London: Villiers / Scorpion Press. OCLC 501036319.
  12. ^ Rangel-Ribeiro, Victor (2019). Souza: The Artist, His Loves, and His Times. Goa Publications Pvt. Ltd. ISBN 9788190426527.
  13. ^ Sanyal, Amitava (9 April 2010). "Francis Newton Souza: How the artist's libido guided him in art as in life". Hindustan Times.
  14. ^ "Sale of a painting by the late Indian painter Francis Newton Souza has set a record for an Indian work of art". BBC News. 13 June 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  15. ^ [1] Archived 28 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine FN Souza’s ‘Birth’ sets new record, sold for $4 million at Christie’s New York auction. The Financial Express, 18 September 2015.
  16. ^ Christie's - The Art of Souza: Property from the Estate of Francis Newton Souza
  17. ^ Ghert-Zand, Renee (29 February 2016). "Young artist turns Jerusalem's market into gallery of famous faces". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  18. ^ Gehi, Reema (16 November 2019). "Souza's muse interrupts show, a Gaitonde painting goes unsold". Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  19. ^ "Supper at Emmaus with the Believer and the Sceptic by Francis Newton Souza". Art UK. Retrieved 23 November 2014.

External links[edit]