01 September 2017

F N Souza ‘The Crucifixion’ on display at St Paul’s Cathedral

This valuable work from the Methodist Modern Art Collection was exhibited in the Dean’s aisle of the cathedral during August 2017. The painting was installed as part of 2017's cultural year of exchange (https://uk-india.britishcouncil.in/) between India and the UK.

Souza was born in Goa. He attended art school in Bombay from 1940 but was expelled in 1945 for participation in the Quit India Movement started by Mahatma Gandhi and which demanded an end to British rule. With other Indian artists Souza formed the Progressive Artists Group in 1947, the year of Indian Independence. The artist moved to London in 1949 and quickly won recognition. He staged solo exhibitions and was awarded the John Moore prize in 1957 as well as participating in the Commonwealth Artists of Fame exhibition of 1977. In 2002 the art critic Madhu Jain described Souza as ‘controversial and ahead of his time…one of the most significant Indian artists’.

Souza’s religious paintings are notable for a quality of fearfulness and an intense grandeur. He painted the crucifixion as a subject on a number of occasions. In the work to be displayed here, Christ hangs on the cross with two figures, probably St John and another disciple. The sun or moon appears in the sky, possibly the moon imposed over the sun, indicating the eclipse mentioned in three of the gospels. The overtly expressionistic style creates a wild and unsettling scene of a public execution. Christ’s arms dominate the drama, focussing on the love stretched out before us and the cost of that love borne in the sacrifice being made there.

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