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Souza`s archival works yield windfall

New Delhi: Late India-born modern master Francis Newton Souza was the talk of the auction market this week when Christie`s auctioned rare art from his personal archives, known as `Estate`. The auction raked in 5,449,025 pounds in London.

The top of the lot, "Red Curse", a powerful expression of Souza`s fascination with the mutation of the nuclear bomb, painted in 1962, sold for 881,250 pounds, a communique issued by Christie`s Thursday said.

Sources at Christie`s said the auction was an attempt to "raise funds for the artist`s family which had fallen on bad times".

"This monumental sale, with bidding from around the room and all corners of the world, is a fantastic testament to the legacy of Souza. As Souza himself was a trail-blazer within the Indian progressive movement, this sale marked the unprecedented energy and participation for this category. Sixty six of all lots received online bids," said Hugo Weihe, Christie`s international director of Asian Art.

Weihe said the sale was a document of the artist`s works "tracing the chronology of his growth."

The `Estate` of FN Souza, as his archive of works is known, is a collection of his art spanning more than six decades from 1939 to 2001. Now owned by his family, it includes paintings, works on paper, diaries, an unfinished book, "The Paragraph" that describes his philosophy on art and life, an annotated library, personal and business correspondence and photographs.

Souza, born in 1924 in Goa, India, was a Roman Catholic. He attended St Xavier`s School in Mumbai and then Sir JJ School of Art in 1940.

After World War II, his works became increasingly political, a development he said was the result of his expulsion from art school.

In 1947, Souza co-founded the Progressive Artists` Group in Mumbai that wanted to develop an Indian idiom of expression - rooted in tradition - away from the influence of European Renaissance, expressionism and impressionistic classicism.

Auction officials said the "prices commanded by the works were optimistic and most of them went to private collectors."

While "Christ", an iconic work painted in 1948, fetched 349,250 pounds, the "Portrait of a Man" painted in 1956 fetched 265,250 pounds. An untitled canvas of lovers went out for 241,250 pounds.

A relatively recent work, "White Man, Black Woman" painted by the artist in 1988 sold for 241,250 pounds. "Vasco Da Gama", painted in 1951, fetched 181,250 pounds while the "Indian Girl" in 1962 raked in 169,250 pounds.

Three other works - an untitled work of a nude with garters painted in 1963, "Red Mansion" in 1961 and another untitled painting of a man commanded 127,250, 103,250 and 97,250 pounds respectively.

The artist died in 2002.

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