Carlos Relvas is one of the most renowned amateur photographers in the history of 19th century Portuguese photography. This exhibition is based on a research project (CICANT— Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias) dedicated to the study of the stereoscopic photography by Carlos Relvas, and its importance during the early years of his career, between 1862 and 1874.
This is one of the least-known periods in Carlos Relvas’ photography. In order to study it, images from the Carlos Relvas House-Studio archive were combined with those from the collections of five different institutions and private collectors, disclosing a considerable set of original albumen prints. This ambitious survey allowed the rediscovery of portraits and views of Portugal which display a rigorous practice of different techniques, genres and photographic formats, offering a broader and more dynamic overview of Carlos Relvas’ early photographic work.
Organised into ten main sections, the exhibition showcases Carlos Relvas’ first exhibition at the Sociedade Promotora de Belas Artes in 1868 and the outset of his international career, with participation in the exhibitions of some of the main European photography salons, including the reputed Société Française de Photographie, the World Exposition in Vienna and the National Exhibition in Madrid.
By examining the photographer’s work from this period, it is possible to delve deeper into some of the fundamental themes in 19th century Portuguese photography and to reveal new facets of it. These include the complicity between Carlos Relvas and some of the most important painters from this period, allowing the nature of the dialogue between photography and 19th century Portuguese painting to be outlined for the first time. Another such facet is the predominance of heritage and landscape photography in the salons of the time as an ideal way of promoting the country, through a prolific output which focused on some of the preferred sites of Portuguese Romanticism, and others which became iconic landmarks of national identity.
The exhibition also casts the spotlight on the skilled portrait photographer, with an analysis of the evolution of this type of photography throughout his career, from his first, improvised studio to the technical and architectural sophistication of his second, one of the rare 19th century photography studios to be built from scratch, which still stands in Relvas’ native Golegã.
An investigation into an artist and an era, once again supported by the MNAC-MC, in the production and dissemination of novel research projects which allow the history of photography in Portugal to be discovered.
Victor Flores, Ana
David Mendes, Denis Pellerin and Emília Tavares