Untitled (Nude with Garters)

Untitled (Nude with Garters)
signed and dated 'Souza 63' (upper right)
oil on canvas
60 3⁄4 x 37 7⁄8 in. (154.3 x 96.2 cm.)
Painted in 1963
The Estate of Francis Newton Souza
Christie's London, 9 June 2010, lot 83
Acquired from the above by the present owner
New York, Aicon Gallery, Iconic Processions, Sacred Stones to Modern Masterpieces, 11 September - 20 October, 2012


Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari Specialist, Head of Department


My paintings are not a product of love or anger. My painting is a product of my libido. I am not making the error of confusing the reality of women, the beauty, with painted representation of women. When Im painting, I am painting a picture I am not confusing that with taking her to bed.
- F.N. Souza

The representation of women, particularly as nudes, is a theme at the heart of Francis Newton Souza’s practice, which evolved stylistically over the course of his career. “The bare-breasted, unashamedly sexual women made by Souza are by now well-known. Yet with each encounter we are faced afresh with their voluptuous sexuality. A fact often overlooked is the tenderness, bordering on a caress with which the feminine contours are drawn” (Y. Dalmia, The Demonic Line, New Delhi, 2001, p. 6).

An imposing portrait, Nude with Garters was painted in 1963, during a period that marked a fundamental shift in Souza’s depiction of the female form. In the early 1960s, the sharp, angular features that characterized many of the women he painted the previous decade mutate and transform, almost abstracting their faces. The present lot also illustrates the artist’s increasingly sexualized portrayal of women at the time. Standing in a garish red, claustrophobic room, recalling the window booth of a bordello, Souza’s subject in this painting is devoid of the sculptural qualities and ornamentation of the nudes he painted in the 1950s. Here, the elaborate hair-pins and necklaces have been replaced with the considerably more explicit studded leather collar, matching garters and net stockings, giving the portrait an almost sadomasochistic feel.

The colors and forms of the women Souza painted at the time pay homage to Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon, both of whom the artist met and admired. When he painted this work in 1963, Souza was fully immersed in the vibrant Bohemian circles of London, where critical exchanges constantly took place between likeminded artists, writers and their contemporaries. It is likely that the sitter for this painting was Henrietta Moraes, identified by her characteristic dark hair upturned at the ends. A frequent denizen of the Colony Room in Soho, Henrietta led a very loud and colorful life and served as muse and model for a number of important British artists including Bacon and Lucien Freud. Like Souza, she was born in India and was, at the time, married to the Goan writer and poet, Dom Moraes, who the artist knew well. While Freud painted Henrietta a few times early in his career, most famously as Girl in a Blanket (1953), Bacon portrayed her several times based on a series of photographs of her he commissioned from John Deakin. In 1963, the year Souza painted the present lot, Bacon portrayed Henrietta as the disfigured odalisque in his legendary painting, Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe.

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