F. N. Souza was expelled from school, then college (Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay) and later, as he insisted on saying, from his own country. He would shift continents before settling in New York, for the Goa-born artist, who was brought up by his Catholic mother to become a priest, showed early signs of the rebelliousness that was to become an integral part of his life. His mutinous nature made him join the Communist Party, which he soon rejected, and the founder member and spokesperson of the Progressive Artists’ Group, which he later abandoned to pursue a painterly career in Europe.
Souza found his own blunt, extreme style by combining the expressionism of Rouault and Soutine with the spirit of cubism and the sculptures of classical Indian tradition. He combined fierce lines with cruel humour. Nudes, landscapes and portraits – he painted in every style and in every medium, even inventing ‘chemical alterations’, a method of drawing with the use of chemical solvent on a printed page without destroying the glossy surface. This helped the artist to experiment with the layering of multiple imagery, thus creating several simultaneous narratives. Widely exhibited and feted around the world, F. N. Souza’s pugnacious nature and work failed to win him recognition in the country of his birth, where he was noted but never rewarded.