Born in 1924, Souza is best known for being one of the founding members of the Progressive Artists Group. Francis Newton Souza’s ‘Goan Village’ is an early masterpiece of the Goa born artist
Growing up, Souza was raised by his mother and was sent to a strict Jesuit school. He later on went to St. Xavier’s College in Bombay where he was expelled for his rebellious behaviour. After which, he decided to join the JJ School of Art where he met his fellow Progressive Artists’ Group members. Newton rebelled against authority, establishment and convention throughout his student life and was expelled from the JJ School of Art as well.
When Souza was attending art school, he complained that the teachers there were too strict. They did not like to explore the avant garde movements that were happening in west at that time and preferred to stick to traditional academic styles. Souza was attracted to the new ideas and movements that were happening outside of the classroom.
Souza was not only influenced by western art movements but he was also influenced by the political changes that were happening in India at the time. Souza had witnessed the Bengal Famine of 1943, the Indian Naval Mutiny of 1943 and the Quit India Movement of 1942 by Gandhi.
After leaving Bombay, he went back to his Goa to paint in his own style without his teachers telling what he could or couldn't do. He spent a couple of months in a Goan village where he painted scenes that he saw. He completed an entire folio of work and exhibited it in 1945. The exhibition that was held in The Bombay Art Society was well attended and he sold majority of the works that were displayed. This exhibition allowed Souza get a solid hold on the Bombay art world.In 1947, Souza, Raza and Ara founded the Progressive Artists’ Group. Souza was one of three original members that were allowed to invite members. He made a decision to invite MF Husain to the Progressive Artists’ Group. Souza claimed that artists should get together to resolve common problems and initiate the development of a new national art. For them,1947 represented the birth of a new India and a birth of new standards in Indian art as well. They had their first official show as group in 1949.
Goa played an important role in Souza’s art. Living there, he was not only exposed to churches (Souza was a Catholic) but also the temples, mosques and the native goan life. His early works drew inspiration from his Goan roots and featured men and women from the area, its markets, fields and homes.
The painting reflects his bold use of colour and line. The reds, browns, yellows, blues and greens are similar to the palette used in his later works as well. His landscape paintings often had elements of folks art from Goa, western style and influences from Europe, religious aspects from the Catholic church, as well as his own take on modern Indian art.