Five Portuguese Painters You Should Know
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Portugal's rich art history spans many centuries and has been shaped by various cultural and artistic influences. This history ranges from the Romanesque style of architecture during the medieval period to the modern art scene in the 19th and early 20th centuries to today's contemporary art scene, with many artists producing work across a range of media, from painting and sculpture to video and performance art.
But with so much art history and talent to discover, where do you start if you want to learn about Portugal's visual artists? Well, if you are an art collector looking to expand your art collection with artwork by Portuguese artists, look no further because here are five of the most established artists from Portugal's modernist & post-war eras whose paintings are highly regarded and could be great additions to any art collection.
Amadeo de Souza Cardoso
Amadeo de Souza Cardoso Estate © Credits: Art Library / Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Art Library
Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso (1887-1918) was an artist who played a significant role in the development of modern art in Portugal. He was born in Manhufe, a small town in northern Portugal, and later moved to Paris, where he was exposed to the latest artistic trends and developed his own distinctive style.
Souza-Cardoso was associated with the international avant-garde movement, which sought to break with traditional artistic conventions and explore new forms and ideas. He experimented with a range of media, including painting, drawing, printmaking, and sculpture, and was particularly known for his use of bold colors and dynamic, abstract forms.
Some of Souza-Cardoso's most famous works include his series of abstract portraits, which combine elements of Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism. These works are characterized by their bold, angular shapes and fragmented, distorted forms.
In addition to his artistic work, Souza-Cardoso was also a key figure in the promotion and dissemination of modern art in Portugal. He organized several exhibitions of modern art in Lisbon and Porto, which helped to introduce Portuguese audiences to new forms and styles of artistic expression.
Unfortunately, Souza-Cardoso's promising career was cut short by his premature death in 1918 at the age of just 30. However, his legacy as a pioneering modernist artist continues to be celebrated in Portugal and beyond, and his works are now held in many major international collections.
Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, "D. Quixote" (1914). Amadeo de Souza Cardoso Estate © Credits: Art Library / Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Art Library
Maria Helena Vieira da Silva
© Maria helena Vieira da SIlva
Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1992) was a Portuguese-born painter who spent most of her career in Paris, where she became associated with the European abstract art movement.
Vieira da Silva was born in Lisbon and studied painting at the School of Fine Arts in Lisbon before moving to Paris in 1928. In Paris, she was exposed to a range of artistic influences, including Cubism and Surrealism, and began to develop her own distinctive style.
Vieira da Silva's paintings are characterized by their intricate, labyrinthine compositions, which often include fragmented geometric shapes and a complex interplay of lines and colors. Her works are known for their sense of depth and movement and often suggest a complex, multi-layered reality that is both abstract and deeply rooted in the physical world.
In addition to her paintings, Vieira da Silva also worked in a range of other media, including tapestry, engraving, and lithography. She was recognized as one of the leading abstract artists of her generation and received numerous honors and awards throughout her career, including the French Legion of Honor in 1979.
Today, Vieira da Silva is considered one of the most important Portuguese artists of the 20th century, and her works can be found in major museums and collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon.
© Maria helena Vieira da SIlva, "The Chess Game" 1943.
Joaquim Rodrigo. Image courtesy of PORTUGUESE SCREEN PRINTING CENTER.
Joaquim Rodrigo (1912-1997) was a self-taught painter. He began painting relatively late, having his first exhibition in 1951 when he was already 39 years old.
Rodrigo's work is characterized by its bold, expressive use of color and its use of biomorphic forms that suggest a range of organic shapes and structures. His paintings often feature swirling, dynamic compositions that suggest movement and energy, while his sculptures explore the tactile qualities of materials such as wood and metal. Various critics have asserted the influence of aboriginal and other indigenous practices on Rodrigo's works.
Today, Rodrigo is considered one of the leading Portuguese artists of the second half of the 20th century, and his works can be found in major museums and collections around the world, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Lisbon, and the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro.
Joaquim Rodrigo, "Vau – Praia [Vau – Beach]" (1982). Credits: Art Library / Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Art Library
Paula Rego in her studio. Photo © The National Gallery, London.
Paula Rego (1935-2022) is an artist known for her figurative paintings, prints, and drawings. She was born in Lisbon and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London before settling in the UK.
Rego's work often explores themes of power, gender, and identity and frequently features unsettling, dreamlike imagery. She is particularly known for her depictions of women and their experiences, and her works often incorporate elements of fairy tales, myths, and personal narratives.
Rego's style is characterized by her use of strong, bold lines and a range of media, including pastels, oils, and etchings. She has been associated with a range of artistic movements, including Pop Art, Surrealism, and Expressionism, but her work is ultimately distinctive and uniquely her own.
Throughout her career, Rego has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the prestigious Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France and the Sao Paulo Biennial Grand Prize in Brazil. Her works can be found in major museums and collections around the world, including the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Berardo Collection Museum in Lisbon. She is considered one of the most important and influential Portuguese artists of the 20th century.
Paula Rego, "Dancing Ostriches (triptych)" (1995). Courtesy of Saatchi Gallery.
Graça Morais. Photo by Egidio Santos, courtesy of Graça Morais Contemporary Art Center.
Graça Morais (b.1948) is a painter and illustrator known for her figurative works that explore social and political issues. She was born in the north of Portugal and studied painting at the Escola Superior de Belas Artes in Lisbon.
Morais' work often depicts the rural landscapes and people of her native region but also addresses broader social issues such as poverty, violence, and political oppression. Her style is characterized by her use of vivid, bold colors and strong, gestural brushstrokes.
Morais has received numerous awards and honors throughout her career, including the Grand Prize at the First Biennial of Painting of the Mediterranean in Alexandria, Egypt. Her works can be found in major museums and collections around the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lisbon, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Berardo Collection Museum in Lisbon. She is considered one of the most important contemporary Portuguese artists, and her works continue to be exhibited and celebrated both in Portugal and abroad.