- Portugal did not produce an artist of sufficient ability to gain recognition outside the country until the 19th century. Domingos Antônio Segueira (1768-1837) became well known in Europe for his allegorical religious and historical paintings in a neoclassical style. Portuguese painting during the 19th century emphasized naturalism and did not keep abreast of artistic innovations being made in other European countries. Portugal's best painters lived abroad especially in France. The most successful was Amadeo Souza- Cardoso who, while living in Paris, worked with the modernists Modigliani, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris. Souza-Cardoso introduced modernism into Portuguese painting in the early 20th century. A sustained modernist movement did not develop in Portugal, however. Naturalism remained the dominant school, and Portugal remained isolated from international artistic trends, owing to Portugal's conservative artistic climate, which prevented new forms of art from taking root, and the lack of support from an artistically sophisticated, art-buying elite supported by a system of galleries and foundations.Interestingly, it was during the conservative Estado Novo that modernism began to take root in Portugal. As Prime Minister Antônio de Oliveira Salazar's secretary for national propaganda, Antônio Ferro, a writer, journalist, and cultural leader who admired Mussolini, encouraged the government to allow modern artists to create the heroic imagery of the Estado Novo following the Italian model that linked fascism with futurism. The most important Portuguese artist of this period was Almada Negreiros, who did the murals on the walls of the legendary café A Brasileira in the Chiado district of Lisbon, the paintings at the Exposition of the Portuguese World (1940), and murals at the Lisbon docks. Other artists of note during this period included Mário Eloy (1900-51), who was trained in Germany and influenced by George Grosz and Otto Dix; Domingos Alvarez (1906-42); and Antônio Pedro (1909-66).During the 1950s, the Estado Novo ceased to encourage artists to collaborate, as Portuguese artists became more critical of the regime. The return to Portugal of Antônio Pedro in 1947 led to the emergence of a school of geometric abstract painting in Oporto and the reawakening of surrealism. The art deco styles of the 1930s gave way to surrealism and abstract expression.In the 1960s, links between Portugal's artistic community and the international art world strengthened. Conscription for the wars against the nationalist insurgencies in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea- Bissau (1961-75) resulted in a massive exodus of Portugal's avante-garde artists to Europe to avoid military service. While abroad, artists such as Joaquin Rodrigo (1912-93), Paula Rego (1935- ), João Cutileiro (1947- ), and others forged links with British, French, Italian, and Spanish artistic communities.The Revolution of 25 April 1974 created a crisis for Portugal's artists. The market for works of art collapsed as left-wing governments, claiming that they had more important things to do (eliminate poverty, improve education), withdrew support for the arts. Artists declared their talents to be at the "service of the people," and a brief period of socialist realism prevailed. With the return of political stability and moderate governments during the 1980s, Portugal's commercial art scene revived, and a new period of creativity began. Disenchantment with the socialist realism (utopianism) of the Revolution and a deepening of individualism began to be expressed by Portuguese artists. Investment in the arts became a means of demonstrating one's wealth and social status, and an unprecedented number of art galleries opened, art auctions were held, and a new generation of artists became internationally recognized. In 1984, a museum of modern art was built by the Gulbenkian Foundation adjacent to its offices on the Avenida de Berna in Lisbon. A national museum of modern art was finally built in Oporto in 1988.In the 1980s, Portugal's new generation of painters blended post-conceptualism and subjectivism, as well as a tendency toward decon-structionism/reconstructionism, in their work. Artists such as Cabrita Reis (1956- ), Pedro Calapez (1953- ), José Pedro Croft (1957- ), Rui Sanches (1955- ), and José de Guimarães (1949- ) gained international recognition during this period. Guimarães crosses African art themes with Western art; Sarmento invokes images of film, culture, photography, American erotica, and pulp fiction toward sex, violence, and pleasure; Reis evolved from a painter to a maker of installation artist using chipboard, plaster, cloth, glass, and electrical and plumbing materials.From the end of the 20th century and during the early years of the 21st century, Portugal's art scene has been in a state of crisis brought on by a declining art trade and a withdrawal of financial support by conservative governments. Although not as serious as the collapse of the 1970s, the current situation has divided the Portuguese artistic community between those, such as Cerveira Pito and Leonel Moura, who advocate a return to using primitive, strongly textured techniques and others such as João Paulo Feliciano (1963- ), who paint constructivist works that poke fun at the relationship between art, money, society, and the creative process. Thus, at the beginning of the 21st century, the factors that have prevented Portuguese art from achieving and sustaining international recognition (the absence of a strong art market, depending too much on official state support, and the individualistic nature of Portuguese art production) are still to be overcome.
Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. by Douglas L. Wheeler . 2014.
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