Thursday, 20 March 2008


The poet is a faker.
His faking is so real

That he even fakes that is pain,
The pain he truly feels.

And those who read his writings
In the read pain they feel
Not the two pains that were his,
But only the one that is not theirs.

And so in its little tracks

Runs, to entertain reason,
That clockwork train
The thing that is called the heart

(Fernando Pessoa, himself)


José de ALMADA NEGREIROS (1893-1970)

For all those who knew him, Almada Negreiros was a charismatic figure. His name has become almost synonymous with twentieth century Portuguese art (a century he practically traversed, having died in 1970), and his popularity stretches beyond the confines of the specialist art audience, extending deep into the hearts of the general public.

The artist’s popularity is mostly attributable to the witty manner in which he allied his profound understanding of the values of modern times (for instance, his pioneering and passionate promotion of Modernism in Portugal through the Futurist movement between 1915 and 1917) with his fondness – manifest in his artistic and intellectual maturity – for the aesthetic and ideological values of tradition.

His success in negotiating this difficult equilibrium – as his extensive oeuvre of paintings, drawings, ballets, poetry and prose, essays and his theoretical and critical reflections confirms – conferred a degree of recognition upon Almada that remains unique amongst the artists of his era.

Almada Negreiros skirted around traditional artistic education (he did not study at any particular art school) and was first foisted on the public in 1912 at the I Salão dos Humoristas, in the halls of Lisbon’s Grémio Literário. His creative activity at the time encompassed illustration and caricature, which he published in satirical newspapers and magazines.

His interest in the graphic arts comprised publicity, posters, magazine covers, such as Contemporânea (1922) and interior decoration. His first paintings were of a decorative nature. Almada conceived works for several commercial establishments in Lisbon; for instance, the four figurative panels he executed in 1913 for the Alfaiataria Cunha (a tailor), which where followed at a later stage with other projects for Chiado’s A Brasileira café (As Banhistas [The Bathers] and Auto-Retrato num Grupo [Self Portrait in a Group]), and a large Nu (Nude), painted in 1926 for the Bristol Club – an important set of works that illustrates the first phase of his pictorial oeuvre [CAMJAP collection]).

Dance was another of his great passions. He began to dedicate himself to some choreographic projects in 1915 (for example, the ballet O Nome da Rosa), and managed to join the cast of Helena Castelo Melhor’s Ballet Company in 1918 as the first dancer, lead choreographer and costume designer.

He simultaneously wrote the novels Saltimbancos or Mima Fataxa (1916), K4 Quadrado Azul (1917), Histoire du Portugal par Coeur (1919), the latter having been written during a brief stay in Paris, and A Intervenção do Dia Claro (1921). These are merely some examples of his literary work; besides which he pursued his critical and programmatic interventions which culminated at the moment of his public reading of the Ultimatum Futurista às Gerações Portuguesas do Século XX (The Futurist Ultimatum for the Twentieth-Century Portuguese Generations) which took place in Lisbon at the Teatro da República in 1917. Throughout his life, Almada regularly collaborated with newspapers and magazines. He also published numerous articles of a critical and cultural nature in newspapers like the Diário de Lisboa, permanently defending the values of Art, visual creation and the artist’s social role in the Modern era.

Between 1927 and 1932, he established himself in Madrid, where he pursued his activities as a craftsman, illustrator and essayist. On his return from Spain, Almada committed his energies to acts of cultural promotion: he tabled conferences (Arte e Artistas [Art and Artists] in 1933, Elogio da Ingenuidade [Eulogy to Naiveté] in 1936; composed critical essays (Cuidado com a Pintura [Beware of Painting], 1934), published his novel (Nome de Guerra [Name of War], 1938), and created posters alongside stamps or official illustrated brochures. His friendship with António Ferro, ever since the Orpheu period (1915), led him to his collaboration with the recently created Secretariado de Propaganda Nacional (Secretary of National Propaganda, 1935), the state organism that arranged his first retrospective exhibition in 1941 (Almada – Trinta Anos de Desenho [Almada, Thirty Years of Drawing]), awarding him the “Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro” Prize a year later, on the occasion of the VII Exposição de Arte Moderna (VII Exhibition of Modern Art).

Almada Negreiros was an artist of great merit, and was officially recognised as such during this period. His collaboration in numerous projects to decorate public buildings, belonging to the “Estado Novo”, affirmed itself in 1934 with his creation of the first studies for the stained glass windows of the new Nossa Senhora de Fátima Church, which was concluded in 1938. This modernist project would reveal a fecund partnership with architect Pardal Monteiro. Their collaboration was renewed in several projects, two of which deserve to be singled out: the two maritime platforms of Lisbon, which were realised in the 1940s (Gare Marítima de Alcântara, 1944 and Gare Marítima da Rocha do Conde de Óbidos, 1948).

Almada also experimented with other mediums, namely tapestry (Bailarina, 1949) and tiles or mosaics (for the Bloco das Águas-Livres in 1956), returning to stained glass with his drawings for the Santo Condestável Church in Lisbon (1951), to eventually embrace some interior design projects with his proposal for one of the rooms in the Ritz Hotel (Lisbon, 1959).From a plastic point of view, Almada’s work maintains its foundations in the persistence of drawing as the medium and objective of his creative activity. Neither Colour nor pictorial matter ever outdoes the limits imposed by the reason of his line. Even when he embraces greater experimentalism, informed by the experience of a post-cubist grammar where line cuts across plane, the contours of bodies remain synthetically resolved through an natural quality of delineation, which is often partakes of geometric definition (circles, arcs of circles, ovals…).

His preferred shapes were those belonging to people – the minstrels (Acrobatas [Acrobats, 1919]) and harlequins (Arlequim e Colombina [Harlequin and Colombina, 1938]); elegant women (Banhista [Bather, 1932]) and common female “types” (A Engomadeira [The Ironing Lady, 1938]; A Criada [The Maid, 1948]), and mothers with their children (Maternidade [Maternity, 1948]). The places regularly inhabited by these characters (Interior, 1948) – the cities with their cafés, the taverns and ports, these crowded places full of people in transit can be found in the large frescoes of the Gare Marítima da Rocha Conde de Óbidos, where the post-cubist idiom is transferred to the extremely colourful riverside scenes of Lisbon, the rhythm of work in the bay, the engines, cranes, stairs and hulks of ships.

The large Retrato de Fernando Pessoa (Portrait of Fernando Pessoa, 1945), an emblematic piece of pictorial production from the 1950s, was executed for the Lisbon restaurant Irmãos Unidos. The Modern Art Centre possesses a second version of this portrait, painted in 1964. Friends since 1913, Pessoa had already been portrayed by the artist in a drawing, exhibited in 1913 at the II Salão dos Humoristas. Fernando Pessoa majestically appears at the centre of this composition from 1954 with his felt hat and glasses, an image celebrated in endless reproductions.

At the end of the 1950s, Almada conceived works of an abstract nature, for instance, the four oils he created in 1957 (A Porta da Harmonia [Harmony’s Door], O Ponto de Bauhutte [Bauhutte Point], Quandrante 1 [Quadrant 1], Relação 9/10 [9/10 Relation] from the CAMJAP collection). Subordinated to the theme of geometric progression, these works seem to share the same thirst for order – perhaps the most mystical instant in Almada’s entire visual oeuvre. In this brief interval from his preferred figurative idiom, we find abstraction firmly inscribed within the limits of rational control – which is thereby classically humanised, the works never leaving margin for irrational or free expression.

Almada would recover the abstract syntax later on in the large allegorical mural Começar (concluded in 1968). These incisions in stone cover the main atrium of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s headquarters in Lisbon. The magical progression of numbers, translated by the geometric shape, is affirmed as is the formal principle of this composition.

Born in São Tomé in 1893, Almada became an orphan at the tender age of three. Living far from his father, who had sent him to Lisbon to study in 1900, Almada Negreiros spent his childhood as an intern in Lisbon colleges. An uprooted man, Almada attempted to fill the existential gap he carried throughout life with the polyvalent extensiveness of his oeuvre and his desire to affirm the plural artist he was. He thus created an emblematic self-image, according to a permanent act of narcissistic self-creation, with two large black asymmetrical eyes, delineated with thick eyebrows, and a face reduced to a scheme of straight lines, in permanent self interrogation (Auto-Reminiscência [Self-Reminiscence, 1949]).

The oeuvre of Almada Negreiros, for whom being a painter was “to be the absolute owner of ones self”, has received multiple awards and was subjected to an important retrospective at the Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon, in 1993.



A Lion, unable from old age and infirmities to provide himself with food by force, resolved to do so by artifice. He returned to his den, and lying down there, pretended to be sick, taking care that his sickness should be publicly known. The beasts expressed their sorrow, and came one by one to his den, where the Lion devoured them. After many of the beasts had thus disappeared, the Fox discovered the trick and presenting himself to the Lion, stood on the outside of the cave, at a respectful distance, and asked him how he was. "I am very middling," replied the Lion, "but why do you stand without? Pray enter within to talk with me." "No, thank you," said the Fox. "I notice that there are many prints of feet entering your cave, but I see no trace of any returning."

He is wise who is warned by the misfortunes of others.


The Lion, the Fox and the Ass entered into an agreement to assist each other in the chase. Having secured a large booty, the Lion on their return from the forest asked the Ass to allot his due portion to each of the three partners in the treaty. The Ass carefully divided the spoil into three equal shares and modestly requested the two others to make the first choice. The Lion, bursting out into a great rage, devoured the Ass. Then he requested the Fox to do him the favor to make a division. The Fox accumulated all that they had killed into one large heap and left to himself the smallest possible morsel. The Lion said, "Who has taught you, my very excellent fellow, the art of division? You are perfect to a fraction. He replied, "I learned it from the Ass, by witnessing his fate."

Happy is she who learns from the misfortunes of others


An Ass once found a Lion's skin which the hunters had left out in the sun to dry. He put it on and went towards his native village. All fled at his approach, both men and animals, and he was a proud Ass that day. In his delight he lifted up his voice and brayed, but then every one knew him, and his owner came up and gave him a sound cudgelling for the fright he had caused. And shortly afterwards a Fox came up to him and said: "Ah, I knew you by your voice."

Fine clothes may disguise, but silly words will disclose a fool.


Many years ago, there was an Emperor, who was so excessively fond of new clothes, that he spent all his money in dress. He did not trouble himself in the least about his soldiers; nor did he care to go either to the theater or the chase, except for the opportunities then afforded him for displaying his new clothes. He had a different suit for each hour of the day; and as of any other king or emperor, one is accustomed to say, "he is sitting in council," it was always said of him, "The Emperor is sitting in his wardrobe."

Time passed merrily in the large town which was his capital; strangers arrived every day at the court. One day, two rogues, calling themselves weavers, made their appearance. They gave out that they knew how to weave stuffs of the most beautiful colors and elaborate patterns, the clothes manufactured from which should have the wonderful property of remaining invisible to everyone who was unfit for the office he held, or who was extraordinarily simple in character.

"These must, indeed, be splendid clothes!" thought the Emperor. "Had I such a suit, I might at once find out what men in my realms are unfit for their office, and also be able to distinguish the wise from the foolish! This stuff must be woven for me immediately." And he caused large sums of money to be given to both the weavers in order that they might begin their work directly.

So the two pretended weavers set up two looms, and affected to work very busily, though in reality they did nothing at all. They asked for the most delicate silk and the purest gold thread; put both into their own knapsacks; and then continued their pretended work at the empty looms until late at night.

"I should like to know how the weavers are getting on with my cloth," said the Emperor to himself, after some little time had elapsed; he was, however, rather embarrassed, when he remembered that a simpleton, or one unfit for his office, would be unable to see the manufacture. To be sure, he thought he had nothing to risk in his own person; but yet, he would prefer sending somebody else, to bring him intelligence about the weavers, and their work, before he troubled himself in the affair. All the people throughout the city had heard of the wonderful property the cloth was to possess; and all were anxious to learn how wise, or how ignorant, their neighbors might prove to be.

"I will send my faithful old minister to the weavers," said the Emperor at last, after some deliberation, "he will be best able to see how the cloth looks; for he is a man of sense, and no one can be more suitable for his office than be is."

So the faithful old minister went into the hall, where the knaves were working with all their might, at their empty looms. "What can be the meaning of this?" thought the old man, opening his eyes very wide. "I cannot discover the least bit of thread on the looms." However, he did not express his thoughts aloud.

The impostors requested him very courteously to be so good as to come nearer their looms; and then asked him whether the design pleased him, and whether the colors were not very beautiful; at the same time pointing to the empty frames. The poor old minister looked and looked, he could not discover anything on the looms, for a very good reason, viz: there was nothing there. "What!" thought he again. "Is it possible that I am a simpleton? I have never thought so myself; and no one must know it now if I am so. Can it be, that I am unfit for my office? No, that must not be said either. I will never confess that I could not see the stuff."
"Well, Sir Minister!" said one of the knaves, still pretending to work. "You do not say whether the stuff pleases you."

"Oh, it is excellent!" replied the old minister, looking at the loom through his spectacles. "This pattern, and the colors, yes, I will tell the Emperor without delay, how very beautiful I think them."

"We shall be much obliged to you," said the impostors, and then they named the different colors and described the pattern of the pretended stuff. The old minister listened attentively to their words, in order that he might repeat them to the Emperor; and then the knaves asked for more silk and gold, saying that it was necessary to complete what they had begun. However, they put all that was given them into their knapsacks; and continued to work with as much apparent diligence as before at their empty looms.

The Emperor now sent another officer of his court to see how the men were getting on, and to ascertain whether the cloth would soon be ready. It was just the same with this gentleman as with the minister; he surveyed the looms on all sides, but could see nothing at all but the empty frames.

"Does not the stuff appear as beautiful to you, as it did to my lord the minister?" asked the impostors of the Emperor's second ambassador; at the same time making the same gestures as before, and talking of the design and colors which were not there.

"I certainly am not stupid!" thought the messenger. "It must be, that I am not fit for my good, profitable office! That is very odd; however, no one shall know anything about it." And accordingly he praised the stuff he could not see, and declared that he was delighted with both colors and patterns. "Indeed, please your Imperial Majesty," said he to his sovereign when he returned, "the cloth which the weavers are preparing is extraordinarily magnificent."

The whole city was talking of the splendid cloth which the Emperor had ordered to be woven at his own expense.

And now the Emperor himself wished to see the costly manufacture, while it was still in the loom. Accompanied by a select number of officers of the court, among whom were the two honest men who had already admired the cloth, he went to the crafty impostors, who, as soon as they were aware of the Emperor's approach, went on working more diligently than ever; although they still did not pass a single thread through the looms.

"Is not the work absolutely magnificent?" said the two officers of the crown, already mentioned. "If your Majesty will only be pleased to look at it! What a splendid design! What glorious colors!" and at the same time they pointed to the empty frames; for they imagined that everyone else could see this exquisite piece of workmanship.

"How is this?" said the Emperor to himself. "I can see nothing! This is indeed a terrible affair! Am I a simpleton, or am I unfit to be an Emperor? That would be the worst thing that could happen--Oh! The cloth is charming," said he, aloud. "It has my complete approbation." And he smiled most graciously, and looked closely at the empty looms; for on no account would he say that he could not see what two of the officers of his court had praised so much. All his retinue now strained their eyes, hoping to discover something on the looms, but they could see no more than the oth"How is this?" said the Emperor to himself. "I can see nothing! This is indeed a terrible affair! Am I a simpleton, or am I unfit to be an Emperor? That would be the worst thing that could happen--Oh! The cloth is charming," said he, aloud. "It has my complete approbation." And he smiled most graciously, and looked closely at the empty looms; for on no account would he say that he could not see what two of the officers of his court had praised so much. All his retinue now strained their eyes, hoping to discover something on the looms, but they could see no more than the ers; nevertheless, they all exclaimed, "Oh, how beautiful!" and advised his majesty to have some new clothes made from this splendid material, for the approaching procession. "Magnificent! Charming! Excellent!" resounded on all sides; and everyone was uncommonly gay. The Emperor shared in the general satisfaction; and presented the impostors with the riband of an order of knighthood, to be worn in their button-holes, and the title of "Gentlemen Weavers."

The rogues sat up the whole of the night before the day on which the procession was to take place, and had sixteen lights burning, so that everyone might see how anxious they were to finish the Emperor's new suit. They pretended to roll the cloth off the looms; cut the air with their scissors; and sewed with needles without any thread in them. "See!" cried they, at last. "The Emperor's new clothes are ready!"

And now the Emperor, with all the grandees of his court, came to the weavers; and the rogues raised their arms, as if in the act of holding something up, saying, "Here are your Majesty's trousers! Here is the scarf! Here is the mantle! The whole suit is as light as a cobweb; one might fancy one has nothing at all on, when dressed in it; that, however, is the great virtue of this delicate cloth."

"Yes indeed!" said all the courtiers, although not one of them could see anything of this exquisite manufacture.

"If your Imperial Majesty will be graciously pleased to take off your clothes, we will fit on the new suit, in front of the looking glass."

The Emperor was accordingly undressed, and the rogues pretended to array him in his new suit; the Emperor turning round, from side to side, before the looking glass.

"How splendid his Majesty looks in his new clothes, and how well they fit!" everyone cried out. "What a design! What colors! These are indeed royal robes!"

"The canopy which is to be borne over your Majesty, in the procession, is waiting," announced the chief master of the ceremonies.

"I am quite ready," answered the Emperor. "Do my new clothes fit well?" asked he, turning himself round again before the looking glass, in order that he might appear to be examining his handsome suit.

The lords of the bedchamber, who were to carry his Majesty's train felt about on the ground, as if they were lifting up the ends of the mantle; and pretended to be carrying something; for they would by no means betray anything like simplicity, or unfitness for their office.

So now the Emperor walked under his high canopy in the midst of the procession, through the streets of his capital; and all the people standing by, and those at the windows, cried out, "Oh! How beautiful are our Emperor's new clothes! What a magnificent train there is to the mantle; and how gracefully the scarf hangs!" in short, no one would allow that he could not see these much-admired clothes; because, in doing so, he would have declared himself either a simpleton or unfit for his office. Certainly, none of the Emperor's various suits, had ever made so great an impression, as these invisible ones.

"But the Emperor has nothing at all on!" said a little child.

"Listen to the voice of innocence!" exclaimed his father; and what the child had said was whispered from one to another.

"But he has nothing at all on!" at last cried out all the people. The Emperor was vexed, for he knew that the people were right; but he thought the procession must go on now! And the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever, to appear holding up a train, although, in reality, there was no train to hold.

The End


From the the Disney's Masterpiece " An American Tail " this song by Linda Rondstadt and James Ingram is (my point of view) just FABOLOUS.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...