FN Souza, The Crucifixion 1962

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FN Souza, The Crucifixion 1962

Raw and powerful depiction of The Crucifixion by Indian artist FN Souza comes to St Paul’s for UK India Year of Culture

A vivid and overtly expressionistic depiction of The Crucifixion by renowned Indian artist FN Souza will be displayed in St Paul’s this summer as part of the UK India Year of Culture.

FN Souza’s The Crucifixion, 1962, has been generously loaned by the Trustees of the Methodist Modern Art Collection for display in the Dean's Aisle of the Cathedral from 1st to 30th August.

In February 2017, the Indian High Commission and the British Council launched a year of cultural exchange in celebration of the long-standing relationship between the UK and India on the 70th anniversary of India’s independence. In both countries, events, exhibitions and activities are taking place to celebrate the richness and diversity of these cultures and showcase some of the best UK and Indian artists and institutions.

FN Souza (1924-2002) was born in Goa, a Portuguese enclave, in West India. He attended art school in Bombay from 1940 but was expelled in 1945 for participation in the Quit India Movement, a campaign started by Mahatma Gandhi in August 1942, which demanded an end to British rule. Souza, with other Indian artists, formed the Progressive Artists Group in 1947, the year of Indian independence.

The artist moved to London in 1949 and quickly won recognition. He was awarded the John Moore prize in 1957 and participated in the Commonwealth Artists of Fame exhibition in 1977.

Souza’s religious paintings are notable for a quality of fearfulness and terrible grandeur. He painted The Crucifixion as a subject on a number of occasions, including his work of 1962, in which Christ hangs on the cross with two figures, probably St John and a disciple.

The overtly expressionistic style creates a wild and unsettling scene of a public execution. Christ’s loving arms dominate the scene focussing us on the belief of Christians that God shows his love for the world in Christ’s sacrifice.

St Paul's Chancellor Canon Mark Oakley, who is responsible for the Cathedral's Visual Arts Programme, said: “We are delighted that in this year when the UK and India are celebrating a major bilateral year of cultural exchange, St Paul’s has the privilege of exhibiting the raw energy of Francis Souza’s ‘The Crucifixion’ of 1962. Refuting what he called the ‘blond operatic Christs’ found in the churches of his childhood in Goa, Souza brings us back to the horror of Christ’s public execution and invites us to interrogate the pains and cost of love and how this love might, indeed, reflect the divine. We are hugely grateful to the Trustees of the Methodist Modern Art Collection for their generosity in loaning the painting for display.”

Throughout its history, art in St Paul's Cathedral has inspired and illuminated the Christian faith for those who visit, and provided a focus for reflection, meditation and contemplation. This legacy continues through the Cathedral's Visual Arts Programme which seeks to explore the encounter between art and faith in a powerful and challenging context. In recent times, a series of interventions by artists including Antony Gormley, Gerry Judah and Bill Viola have further enriched the daily pattern of worship and the spiritual encounter experienced by visitors to the Cathedral.