Untitled (Hillside Landscape)

Untitled (Hillside Landscape)
signed and dated 'Souza 94' (upper left)
acrylic on canvas
54 x 90 1/8 in. (137.2 x 228.9 cm.)
Painted in 1994
Acquired in Karachi, circa 1990s
Thence by descent


Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari Specialist, Head of Department


The genre of landscape was a cornerstone of Souza’s oeuvre. Fellow artist Jagdish Swaminathan has described Souza as a “painter of cityscapes and religious themes. While in the latter he is loaded with a troubled presentiment, in the former he is singularly devoid of emotive inhibitions [...] Souza’s cityscapes are the congealed visions of a mysterious world” (J. Swaminathan, ‘Souza’s Exhibition’, Lalit Kala Contemporary 40, March 1995, p. 31). Souza began to gain acclaim for his iconic landscapes when he was living in London in the 1950s and 60s, and examples of these works have been exhibited in several institutional shows, including All Too Human, on the London School painters, at Tate Britain in 2018. The genre would remain at the heart of Souza’s practice throughout his illustrious career.

The present lot, Untitled (Hillside Landscape), painted in 1994, extends the artist’s work in this genre, and shows the modern master’s unflagging ambition and powerful brushwork, despite being in his seventies. This painting is one of the largest from the period to come to auction, and bears all the hallmarks of Souza’s signature style, incorporating various elements from his works of the previous decades. While the dynamic application of paint epitomizes the artist’s late period, most notably in the thin layers that compose the background, the thick black lines that delineate the rolling hills and corniced architecture recall his earlier landscapes. Here, buildings tumble across rolling hills in a riot of color, and despite being painted more than twenty years after he left his home in England for the United States, call to mind Hampstead Heath in London near where he lived for two decades.

Souza’s use of vivid shades of blue, green, yellow and red make the painted surface glow like the stained glass windows so prevalent in the Catholic churches he recalls visiting as a child. With its rich palette heightened with white, this landscape is a celebratory painting, conveying a sense of vibrancy and jubilation. Even the tree Souza paints in the foreground seems triumphant, with its swirling foliage and explosion of impasto pigment recalling the artist’s pictures of the 1970s in which he would apply his paint directly from the tubes.

Untitled (Hillside Landscape) is an exceptional and monumental example of the culmination of over fifty years of artistic practice, and every bit as poignant as any of Souza’s other paintings in the genre.

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