F. N. Souza

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F. N. Souza
Indian artist of Goan origin, Francis Newton Souza.jpg
Souza in Goa, 2002
Francisco Victor Newton de Souza

(1924-04-12)12 April 1924
Died28 March 2002(2002-03-28) (aged 77)
NationalityPortuguese, then British[1]
Known forPainting, Drawing
Notable workBirth (1955)
Maria Figueiredo
(m. 1946; div. 1964)
Barbara Zinkant
(m. 1965; div. 1977)
Partner(s)Liselotte Kristian (1954–1961)
Srimati Lal (1993–2002)

Francis Newton Souza (12 April 1924 – 28 March 2002) was an Indian-American British Asian artist. He was a founding member of the Progressive Artists' Group of Bombay. Souza's style exhibited both decadence and primitivism.[2]

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.[3] Souza's mother remarried, and his half-brother was the painter Lancelot Ribeiro.[4]

Souza attended St. Xavier's College in Bombay, but he was expelled in 1939 for drawing obscene graffiti in the restrooms.[5][6] He then studied at the Sir J. J. School of Art in Bombay but was also expelled from that school in 1945, because of pulling down the Union Jack flag during a school ceremony and participating in the Quit India Movement.[6][7] Souza joined the Communist Party of India soon after, and co-founded the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group in 1947.[8]


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.[5] Souza emigrated to London in 1949, following several complaints against him to the police from the Indian public for obscenity.[9]

He initially struggled to make an impact as an artist in the UK.[9] His Goan wife Maria took on multiple jobs in order to support their family.[10] The Institute of Contemporary Arts included his work in a 1954 exhibition.

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. Souza was one of five artists on the UK shortlist for the 1958 Guggenheim International Award for his 1955 painting Birth.[11]

In 1959, Souza published his autobiographical Words and Lines.[12]

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".[2]


The renowned Indian artist, M.F. Husain, recognized F. N. Souza as his mentor.[13] In recent years, Souza's paintings have been sold for over a million dollars.[14] His painting Birth (1955) depicting his mistress Liselotte posing naked while pregnant with their first daughter Keren,[7] 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]

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.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Souza met a Goan fashion designer named Maria Figueiredo in 1945, they married soon after and had a daughter together.[10] In 1954 Souza met Liselotte Kristian (also surnamed Kohn, 1919–1990), a married Jewish actress and Progressive League member, who became his mistress.[18][19] They had three daughters together but they never got married: Souza remained married to Maria, while Liselotte remained married to her husband Richard.[13][18] They also aborted a pregnancy in 1959,[20] Souza thereby being automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church.[21]

Souza's relationship with Liselotte ended in 1961,[18] with Liselotte alleging domestic violence.[22] He divorced Maria in 1964 in order to marry the 16-year-old Barbara Zinkant. He and Barbara moved to New York City in 1967 and their son was born in 1971. Barbara divorced Souza in 1977 in order to marry her lover.[1]

Souza divided his time between India and the United States after his second divorce. He had several mistresses (including a married young woman from Bombay) and visited several red light districts.[23] The Indian artist and poet Srimati Lal was his mistress from 1993 until his death.[24]

Souza's eldest daughter by his mistress Liselotte Kristian is the British-Israeli painter Karen (Keren) Souza-Kohn.[13][18][25] Karen's son is the British-Israeli street artist Solomon Souza, known best for his murals in the Mahane Yehuda Market.[26] Anya Souza, his youngest daughter by Liselotte,[18] was born with Down Syndrome and is a trustee of the Down Syndrome Association, known for speaking out against the 2003 International Down Syndrome Screening Conference at Regents College in London.[27]

F. N. Souza died on 28 March 2002 from a heart attack and was buried in Sewri Christian Cemetery in Mumbai. Only a few people attended the funeral, none of them family members or members of Souza's Goan community.[5][9]

Public collections[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rangel-Ribeiro, Victor (2019). Souza: The Artist, His Loves, and His Times. Goa Publications Pvt. Ltd. ISBN 9788190426527.
  2. ^ a b Chopra, Ashok (2016). A Scrapbook of Memories. India: Harper Collins. ISBN 9789352641123.
  3. ^ Grimes, William (9 April 2020). "Overlooked No More: F.N. Souza, India's Anti-Establishment Artist". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 June 2020. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  4. ^ Buckman, David (23 October 2011). "Lancelot Ribeiro: Artist in the vanguard of the influx of Indian artists to Britain". The Independent. Archived from the original on 16 May 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Maddox, Georgina (9 February 2019). "An exhibition captures F N Souza's early years as an artist". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 11 May 2021. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  6. ^ a b D'Souza, Ornella (6 January 2019). "Born rebel". DNA India (newspaper). Archived from the original on 20 November 2021. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  7. ^ a b Raaj, Neelam (18 September 2015). "With $4m art record, Souza sizzles". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  8. ^ Gehi, Reema (27 September 2015). "Mr. Souza's baggage was always excess". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 6 June 2021. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  9. ^ a b c Khasnis, Giridhar (3 October 2009). "A rebel, always". Deccan Herald. Archived from the original on 23 May 2021. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  10. ^ a b Nair, Uma (11 March 2014). "Souza - The Heartless Husband". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 15 May 2021. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  11. ^ Svendsen, Louise Averill (1958). Guggenheim International Award, 1958. New York City: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. OL 16751796W.
  12. ^ Souza, F. N. (1959). Words and Lines. London: Villiers / Scorpion Press. OCLC 501036319.
  13. ^ a b c Singh, Khushwant (6 May 2006). "A Maverick Painter". The Telegraph (India). Archived from the original on 8 May 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  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. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. 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". Archived from the original on 17 August 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
  17. ^ Gehi, Reema (16 November 2019). "Souza's muse interrupts show, a Gaitonde painting goes unsold". Mumbai Mirror. Archived from the original on 21 August 2021. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  18. ^ a b c d e Carvalho, Selma (2 September 2013). "A morning with F N Souza's daughters". State of the Art. Archived from the original on 13 May 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  19. ^ "Liselotte de Kristian (1919-1990), Actress; partner of F.N. Souza". National Portrait Gallery. London. Archived from the original on 22 November 2021. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  20. ^ Jackson, Milenka (June 1989). "Part 5". Liselotte Souza interviewed by Milenka Jackson. Living Memory of the Jewish Community (Audio recording summary). London: British Library. She had an abortion in 1959, three babies in these conditions at the age of 40 was too much.
  21. ^ "Can. 1398". Code of Canon Law. Archived from the original on 3 February 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2008.
  22. ^ Jackson, Milenka (June 1989). "Part 7". Liselotte Souza interviewed by Milenka Jackson. Living Memory of the Jewish Community (Audio recording summary). London: British Library. Francis continued with the violence and threats, he tried to deprive her first of home, then of the three girls. He turned off her water supply. She tried to adopt her three girls (she never married Francis) to keep them safe with her. Camden Council prevented her; Anya was in care of the Mental Health Act because of Down's Syndrome. Francis refused his permission for her to adopt.
  23. ^ Sareen, N K (20 October 2021). "Selfie with Souza, the painter who shot to international fame before Hussain". The News Porter. Archived from the original on 29 October 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  24. ^ Sanyal, Amitava (9 April 2010). "Francis Newton Souza: How the artist's libido guided him in art as in life". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 6 June 2021. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  25. ^ Jackson, Milenka (June 1989). "Part 9". Liselotte Souza interviewed by Milenka Jackson. Living Memory of the Jewish Community (Audio recording summary). London: British Library. Her other daughter Karen took art training and has been successful.
  26. ^ Corman, Ruth (8 April 2021). "Solomon Souza follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, F.N. Souza". Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 15 January 2023. Retrieved 11 August 2022.
  27. ^ Aspis, Simone (July–August 2003). ""I'm a person, not a disease"". Mouth. p. 31. Archived from the original on 9 June 2021. Retrieved 11 October 2022.
  28. ^ "Supper at Emmaus with the Believer and the Sceptic by Francis Newton Souza". Art UK. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2014.

External links[edit]