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Learning English - Words in the News
16 June, 2008 - Published 12:28 GMT
Indian painting sold at record price
Souza's Birth - the artist was 'ahead of his times'

The auction house, Christie's, says the sale of a painting by the Indian artist, Francis Newton Souza, has set a record for an Indian work of art. Souza's 1955 painting, Birth, was sold for more than $2.5m. From our South Asia desk, Jason Caffrey reports:

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A Christie's official said the sale of Francis Newton Souza's oil painting, Birth, had set a world auction record for the artist - and for any Indian modern art. Souza, who died in 2002, was born in Goa and lived in Britain and America. He painted his record-breaking picture in London in the mid-fifties. Christie's describe that time as the peak of Souza's career - and the auction house says that Birth is the best painting he produced in this period.

The picture was previously in a private collection in the United States. It shows a nude woman in labour, lying on her back with her eyes closed in concentration. Standing to her left is a man who bears a striking resemblance to the artist himself.

The Indian art critic, Madhu Jain, says Souza's work has always fetched high prices. She describes him as controversial and ahead of his time, and says he was one of India's most significant artists. Now Souza's portrayal of a woman about to give birth has become the most valuable modern painting by an Indian artist in the world.

Jason Caffrey, BBC

Listen to the words

set a world auction record for the artist
sold at a higher price than any other Souza picture anywhere in the world

record-breaking picture
here, Birth has been sold at a higher price than any other painting by the artist

the peak
the most successful period

in labour
about to give birth (when the contractions start to push the baby out of the body)

in concentration
here, being fully focused on the process of giving birth

bears a striking resemblance to
looks very much like

fetched high prices
sold for large amounts of money

causing a lot of disagreement or argument

ahead of his time
creating work that was too modern and innovative for most of his contemporaries to understand and appreciate it; being a visionary, i.e. doing things before others have done them

depiction, representation of something or someone (here, in a painting)

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