Portuguese art, Reasons and Emotions, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Portugal

The collection of the exhibition “Portuguese art, Reasons and Emotions”, covers much of its temporal arc, from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1980s occupying all the galleries of the Museum, from the Serpa Pinto Wing. It begins with portraiture, an eighteenth-century theme rarely addressed in generational dialogues by artist collectives and with unknown works by Miguel Lupi, Luciano Freire, Veloso Salgado, Duarte Faria and Maia and Constantino Fernandes.

Affinities and permanences between romantic and naturalist landscapes are presented, although distinct in the exaltation of the feeling and treatment of natural light, nostalgic symbolisms of the late nineteenth century, from significant works and by little referenced authors such as António Patrício and José de Brito, and stands out a set of unpublished paintings of the recently incorporated Legacy Veloso Salgado.

The sense of modernity of the early decades of the twentieth century, expressed by Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso’s links to the international avant-garde, especially his abstractionist proposals, is articulated with the mid-twentieth century contestation movements and the new figurative parameters of Paula Rego, in the main galleries of the Museum. Rarely shown works of Emmérico Nunes, António Soares, Abel Manta, Bernardo Marques, Mily Podez, Jorge Barradas, Hein Semke, Jorge Oliveira and the magnificent collages of Jorge Vieira are revealed.

This one hundred and fifty year journey of Portuguese art allows approaches to authors and rarely shown works, contextualizing reasons between emotions and artistic sensibilities. The curatorial proposal points to a reflection on social and political implications, and the notions of the modern way of being, since the nineteenth century, by distinguishing in the chronological path, the continuities and changes, the likes and concepts, in the most complete art collection. contemporary, the next and the original, thus justifying the name of this Museum, founded in 1911.

The Portuguese Art Exhibition . Reasons and Emotions , consisting of painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photography and video, is divided into seven cores and part of the mid-nineteenth century, with romantic and naturalistic portraiture and landscape, and travels until the 2010s.

“Mirrors of Souls”, “The Power of Image”, “A Modern Culture”, “Beware of Painting!”, “Forms of Communication and Contestation”, “Languages ​​and Experimentation”, “Postmodernism” are the titles of the seven cores.

Mirror of Souls
Focusing on the portrait of nineteenth century theme, with works by artists such as Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, António Ramalho, Constantino Fernandes or Veloso Salgado, both with unpublished works, namely a portrait of the father of artist from the first and the portrait of a Japanese from the second.

The Power of Image
From the portrait one goes to nature and to the theater, as a staging of the world, in a nucleus that begins with sculpture and with a never exposed work by António Manuel da Fonseca.The connection to the theater is also very present in art, a reflection of the seduction of 19th century modernity.

A Modern Culture
Enters modernism with some artists such as Sousa Lopes, Bernardo Marques, Antonio Soares, Abel Manta, Eduardo Viana or Mario Eloy, who introduce futuristic aesthetics.

Beware of Painting!
Almada Negreiros is the featured painter who, in order to liberate the Portuguese homeland from the spirit of longing, opposes irreverence, served by a rigorous and fluid observation drawing, in paintings such as A Reading , A Nap , Acrobats and Harlequins. , Ballet or Interior , all from the mid-twentieth century.

Forms of Communication and Contestation
With the end of World War II the new artistic movements, such as abstractionism, neorealism and surrealism, appear here in paintings by Fernando Lanhas, Tereza de Arriaga, Antonio Dacosta, Vespeira, Mario Cesariny, Jorge Vieira – with collages. very little known surreal ones – or Alexandre O’Neill.

Languages ​​and Experimentation
A theme for the artistic movements of the 1960s to 1980s, born of the urgency of change dictated by the Colonial War and renewed with the 1974 revolution, in which artists were already crossing the fine arts with the scenography, the film or text, also a result of his experience in seasons in Paris, London and Berlin, with the support of Gulbenkian scholarships.

Artists such as Paula Rego, Lourdes Castro, João Vieira, Ana Hatherly, Eduardo Nery Jose Escada, Antonio Sena, Jorge Pinheiro and Jorge Martins are some of the representative artists of these movements.

postmodernists open the way to various concepts, including self-reflexivity and identity, dystopia of modernist architecture or landscape criticism, where photography was used experimentally, the landscape is not fictionalized, but a documentary look, and modern architectural works are criticized.

Julião Sarmento, Fernando Calhau, Victor Pomar, Nuno Cera, Paulo Catrica and Francisco Tropa are some of the artists represented in this last nucleus of the exhibition.

Characteristic of Portuguese art
The contemporaneity of Portuguese art presents significant moments of rupture, from the 60s onwards, through the work of fundamental authors of the neo-vanguard, breaking with the modernist values inherited from the cultural policy of the Estado Novo. The democratic Revolution of 1974 marks the beginning of a new political, social and cultural context that will determine the experimental and heterogeneous character of Portuguese art in the following decades. The artistic panorama of the following decades, until the end of the twentieth century, will be marked by the autonomy of artistic practices and the consecration of new languages by some of the most established national artists, integrating Portuguese art in the international scene.

National Museum of Contemporary Art collection presented some of the transformations that have taken place in Portuguese art since the 1960s are particularly evidenced.

Events and journeys

Kultur (1962)
Kultur is the first approach to what would be the most extensive and perhaps characteristic production of Joaquim Rodrigo. Rodrigo mixed the four major colours of his already defined theory (red, yellow, white and black) on an ochre background, inscribing some signs with the same colours, filling in areas or designing their outlines.

This work alludes an episode taken from national political life, that has only been recognised now, was registered by a painting that hereby enlarged its domain of the world and the natural diversity of events that composes a time.

The figuration is schematic and synthetic and makes use of topographic outlines, strictly adhering to the two-dimensional elements already familiar from Rodrigo’s earlier work. Narrative is also present and infers an articulation of the visual signs arranged in isolation on the plane. The affinities with cartography are clear and constitute our understanding of Joaquim Rodrigo’s painting from this phase, which reveals an arrangement of small perceptions coupled to a movement, a journey, or more generally a part of a journey.

The landscape, which inevitably refers to a whole, disappears within a field of multiple forces that constitute the perceptions that the painter cartographs as incidents, isolated in their singularity, but seemingly carried along by the constantly inferred movement. The signs suggest different colours, organised in strict connection with their distribution within the perpendicular layout, that define an absolute here and and now from which the dimensions of space and time created by the painting unfold.

Santa Maria (1961)
The initials in the title of this piece cipher the name of Santa Maria, a liner that was highjacked by Henrique Galvão to draw the attention of the international community to the political situation in Portugal. This painting initiates a new moment in Portuguese art.

This episode is narrated by signs arranged within a strict orthogonal grid and have been orchestrated onto an agitated watery-green background where the optical centre corresponds to the centre of the painting. Rodrigo uses three primary colours over the background in shapes that have been drawn in elevation, plan or cross-section, rendering an efficient synthesis of information.

The image assumes a signifying value that enables the painting to function like the writing or narrative of episodes, marking the painting as a register that lies open to the world and its contingencies. Graphic signs are jumbled with other visual signs in articulation with the written pictographic dimension of Joaquim Rodrigo’s work.

Irony and illusion

The lovers (1965)
Os amorosos by Rolando Sá Nogueira is an ironic and disperse evocation. This painting reveals the contradictions aroused within Portuguese culture and society between the new ways dictated to by development and consumption – adopted by art – and the persistence of traditional moral and ideological values. Accessories, leftovers from contemporary life and postcards, with a fin-de-siècle touch, denounce the hypocritical approach of sexuality at the time.

Idyllic love relations are ridiculed by the disparagement, association and transferral of the photographic image and the relations of juxtaposed and cumulative disorder of diverse fragments from different sources and pictorial elements. Gestural and expressive in character, this order is proximate to that of artists Rauschenberg and Kitaj.

Marquee (1993 – 2006)
This piece is the result of photographic research conducted in the following neighbourhoods of Oporto: Contumil, Pasteleira, ilhas da Boavista e Lapa, where illegitimate construction is common. The widespread use of illegitimate marquees as a physical annexe to city and suburban dwellings is telling of a sociological mindset.

In this piece the artist, Ângela Ferreira, makes use of these shoddy industrialized building materials and gives them a conceptual and sculptural meaning. In so doing, the artist highlights the irony of a common national architectural feature made by everyday citizens.

The reflection of aspects pertaining to the nature of time and its assimilation in the image of the real, as well as amusing or illusory enchantment, underlie other mechanisms developed by the artist René Bertholo. Beyond the immediate cinematic influence of Tinguely, Bertholo’s production is more technological and scenographic and perhaps closer to the amusing mechanisms from reality by Calder.

This work develops the mechanisms that activate our perception of action by conditioning our acceptance of the virtual as reality. This contraption puts mild referents into action by creating the illusion of an animated landscape. By dislocating the movement of a concrete and immediate subject – the boat – to the imperceptible dimension of the clouds, a mechanical and idyllic poetics is installed. Time represents itself, without evolving, as it is constantly mirrored.

Signs and gestures

Untitled (1972)
The letter, instead of writing, affirms itself as a sign on the white page. But the gesture is what has been given to us to be read. The action of the body during the process of production adds a performative dimension to João Vieira’s painting. The gesture concentrates itself on the stain, no longer a trace in the wide and firm wake of the spatula. An accentuated material consistency confers the gesture a monumental appearance and erects it as a formal presence.

The letters are chromatically isolated, like autonomous signs that have reached their limit. They are the plastic elements that organise and rhyme the composition, structuring it on an orthogonal grid where they adopt rotations and inversions, making an ample choice of combinations possible.

Cast shadow of René Bertholo (1964)
The year of 1964, and the following years, marks the beginning of Lourdes Castro’s exploration into the silhouette and the outline of isolated and accompanied figures in instant and characteristically photographic poses, painted on canvas. Lourdes Castro said that, besides the shadow of the silhouette, there must be a contour circumscribed to the outline of an absence. Defined by their limits and identified by their titles, these figures form a gallery of characters with whom she shared her daily life. The proxi-mity of art and life finds a possible relation through this vestige, like in the cartography of instants.

Deep (1975)
The signs of writing remain readable but not interpretable, as the rest of a movement that leads us to read not the product but the production process by António Sena. The deviation of writing is an inimitable mark of a gesture, of the artist’s body dispersed on an expressively crafted textural surface.

Scattered signs in the void next to geometric linear traces give rise to a set of spatial densities. Between the opacity, the surprise comes to the encounter of a word sea which, together with the title Deep, acts like bait signification: the nominalist power of the name activates the capacity of evocation, bringing all the references of which it is depository, a set of sensations without analogical relationships that converge in the deep and deep blue.

National Museum of Contemporary Art, Portugal
The National Museum of Contemporary Art – Museu do Chiado, was one of the first museums of contemporary art being created throughout the world. Located in Lisbon’s historical centre, featuring the leading collection of Portuguese art from the second half of the nineteenth century until the present day the museum is of mandatory visit for the understanding and enjoyment of modern and contemporary Portuguese art. The temporary exhibitions program is of great importance within the overall scope of the museum activities. The presentation of the collection is periodically renewed on their temporal or thematic segments, according to a sustained work of historical and critical research, but the programme is not limited to the Portuguese art, focusing on artists and movements of the international modernism and also monitoring and disseminating contemporary artistic creation, both national and international, through co-productions with other museums and art centers.

The National Museum of Contemporary Art – Museu do Chiado was established by government decree on 26th May 1911. It was born out of the division of the old Museu Nacional de Belas-Artes into the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, which inherited from the former all the works produced prior to 1850 and remained in the Palácio das Janelas Verdes, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which included all the works completed after that date and was housed in the Convento de S. Francisco, in an area neighbouring the Academia de Belas Artes. The creation of a network of museums, which spread the length of the country, was the fulfilment of a project based on the 18th century concept of human enlightenment, endowing the country with the necessary tools to safeguard and display the nation’s art. The creation of a museum of contemporary art was, in the international context, new and unprecedented.

The housing, though only on a temporary basis, of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in the Convento de S. Francisco located it symbolically and opportunely in the area frequented by the artists of the periods represented in the museum. It occupied the large old halls, convent annexes, where the exhibitions of the Romantics and the naturalists had been held.