Francis Newton Souza was born in Goa in 1924.
Having lost his father soon after his birth, his mother moved to Mumbai where she became a dressmaker. After an adventurous childhood, in 1940 he joined Sir JJ School of Art where painting was taught in strictly British academic terms.
In 1942, Souza entered his paintings to the Bombay Art Society, where they were rejected, as they would be for the next three years. He was expelled from Sir JJ School of Art in 1945 because of his left wing views and his membership in the Quit India movement. At this time he had his first show at the Bombay Art Salon where his work was bought by Dr. Hermon Goetz for the Baroda Museum.
In 1947, he again entered his work at the Bombay Art Society Annual Exhibition where they were finally accepted and a prize was awarded him. Souza then founded the Progressive Artists’ Group, whose first members were Ara, Bakre, Gade, Husain and Raza. His work was represented in the exhibition of Indian Art at Burlington House, London in 1948 and he left for London in July 1949 where he found the patronage of Krishna Menon, the Indian High Commissioner in London, who commissioned him to paint murals in the city.
In 1954, after four years of impoverishment, Souza sent his autobiographical essay Nirvana of a Maggot to the editor of Encounter who published the piece in 1955. Souza met Victor Musgrove, owner of Gallery One who offered him a show, which was followed by a one-man show at Galerie Creuze, Paris. The exhibition at Gallery One was a sell-out, meriting an article in the Statesman and since that time his success and reputation was assured. The following years saw Souza exhibit in prestigious galleries and locations around the world.
In 1958, he was one of five painters chosen to represent Britain in the Guggenheim International Award. He was awarded an Art Scholarship by the Italian Govt. and he exhibited in the Commonwealth Exhibition of 1962, where he was introduced to Queen Elizabeth. The artist traveled widely and showed extensively in India and around the globe, until his death in 2001.
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