06 Aug 2022  |   05:02am IST

Finding the rightful place for Fonseca

Angelo da Fonseca has largely been forgotten in Goa, but with the efforts of Gerard Da Cunha and Delio Mendonca his work is back in the limelight with the release of the coffee table book, ‘Fonseca’, today. They share their experience of exhibiting his 126 paintings for a Goan audience as a preview to the book
Finding the rightful place for Fonseca

Dolcy D’Cruz

"Angelo da Fonseca created more than 1,000 paintings, mostly in watercolour, and several sketches, during 40 long years. Although the market was never Fonseca’s priority, it was not easy either to sell his paintings or live by them. When Fonseca died in 1967, there were “more than 500 religious paintings,” left unsold”, says historian Delio Mendonca, the author of the coffee table book, ‘Fonseca’, which will be released today, August 6, at Central Library, Panjim, at 6.30pm. Mendonca will also present a slide lecture on the life of Angelo da Fonseca at the function. Regarded as one of the greatest of Indian modernists of the 20th century, his works were never really understood then, which made him turn away from Goa and live his artistic life in Pune.

The book is lavishly illustrated with 126 colour plates and it analyzes Fonseca’s contribution to Indian art. Mendonca is the former director of the Xavier Centre for Historical Research, where Fonseca’s widow, Ivy Muriel, before her death in 2015, had transferred the entire collection of the artist’s work to the Centre. Mendonca, who presently teaches at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, has been closely working with the works of the artists for many years. He says, “I am very grateful to Architect Gerard da Cunha, a friend and the publisher of the book ‘Fonseca’, for giving me the opportunity to deliver this lecture on the occasion of the release of the book; and for organizing this beautiful exhibition of paintings of Fonseca as well as this function.”

To mark Fonseca’s 120th birth anniversary, prints of all 126 of his known paintings were exhibited over a period of two months at two venues, Clube Harmonia in Margao and at the Central Library in Panjim. “There are two reasons for the exhibitions and the book. Firstly, he largely has been forgotten in Goa as he was a revolutionary artist who portrayed Jesus Christ and Mother Mary as locals on canvas; and secondly, Delio Mendonca has been struggling for so many years to release a book on Fonseca,” says Gerard Da Cunha, curator of the exhibitions.

Speaking at the exhibition, the Archbishop of Goa and Daman and Cardinal-elect, Rev Filipe Neri Ferrão, while opening the Angelo da Fonseca’s exhibition in Margão, said, “Angelo da Fonseca created an astounding Indian Christian iconography that seamlessly blended both, Eastern and Western influences as well as traditional and innovative trends. In doing so he invited the ire of many of his own fellow-Christians, who thought he was creating anti- Catholic paintings, by depicting, for example, the Virgin Mary as a Hindu woman wearing a sari and a bindi. This was understandable to some extent, as the norms in church art and sculpture ninety years ago were largely dictated by the European school.”