The interest in Goan-born Francis Newton Souza, one of India’s foremost modernists, remained high at the auction conducted by Saffronart on Thursday. The Evening Sale consisted of the late artist’s line drawings, sketches, and collages on paper. An oil on paper sold for 20 lakh. With buyer’s premium, the 1947 made Peasants in Goa (20x13") cost a neat 24 lakh to the winning bidder.

Also up for auction were sets of photographs of the artist taken by renowned post-World War II photographer Ida Kar, including one taken in 1961, the year Souza had his sixth solo exhibition in Gallery One, a London art gallery.

There are also sketches that date back to 1940, the year that Souza joined the JJ School of Art in what was then Bombay, at the age of 16. The artist was eventually expelled from the art school for his involvement with the Indian independence movement five years later. The auction incorporated line drawings that spanned from the 1950s and ’60s to the ’80s and late ’90s.

For Ajoykaant Ruia, a collector of contemporary Indian art, this auction allowed an affordable foray into possessing a work by a renowned modernist. Ruia picked up a watercolour and collage made by Souza in 1967.

“A drawing is the most immediate and intimate expression of an artist’s hand and vision. Souza is an extraordinary draftsman and it is critical for the understanding of his entire oeuvre. We were delighted with the excellent spirit in the auction room. Bidders also strongly participated online, on the telephone and on our new mobile app, with only two lots failing to sell," said Hugo Weihe, Chief Executive Officer, Saffronart.

At an auction conducted by Saffronart in New Delhi in September, a 1957 oil on canvas by Souza titled Man and Woman Laughing sold for 16.84 crore; in New York, auction house Christie’s sold another iconic Souza work, Birth (1955) for $4,085,000 or 26.5 crore.

Interestingly, during his lifetime, Souza barely sold any of his works in India—his subject always dealt with prickly issues, such as religion and sexuality.

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