entry: General Conditions

The 19th Century in the Museu do Chiado - MNAC Collection

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Amongst painters of the Romantic school, it was Tomás da Anunciação who most carried on the 17th century Dutch landscaping tradition. The rural landscapes, with their dramatically lit winding tracks, in which only the comings and goings of farm labourers punctuate the tranquility of daily life, influenced the naturalistic style of the Barbizon School in the mid-19th century. In Portugal, the Romantic generation was slow to take this style on board and curiously its development eventually revealed a pre-naturalistic sensibility in its treatment of landscape, animals and at times light itself. Pedro Lapa



An unrealistic and imaginary notion of rural life has been a source of inspiration to painters ever since the 18th century. With the end of Romanticism, concern for the plight of the rural peasantry became a recurring theme in the novels of Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo. In Portugal, however, only elements of this concern appeared in the works of Almeida Garrett. Nevertheless, Portuguese genre painting responded to the call of Travels in My Homeland and artists abandoned their studios to observe people and their ways as a means of understanding an uncorrupted local spirit that encapsulated a nation's specific identity. PL



This work was Cristino's first success and established the guiding principles of the new Romantic generation. Painted direct from nature, though scenographic in the structure of the composition and the poses of the figures, it reveals an articulation with landscape painting, in Romantic Sintra, genre painting and the portrait as the collective manifesto of the group of five artists (Tomás da Anunciação, Francisco Metrass, Vítor Bastos, João Cristino da Silva and José Rodrigues). The attention given to the narrative detail of their encounter with the peasants of the region and the capture of small gestures indicative of their artistic convictions and their psychological profiles contradict, as much formally as chromatically, the treatment of the landscape, taken as a whole, and which extends to the symbolic and Romantic Palácio da Pena, shrouded in mist. Maria de Aires Silveira



The Romantic landscape is the expression of a sentiment or a melancholic state of mind that finds in natural tragedies, in geographical accidents, and particularly in the changing light conditions during the day, preferably at sunset, the manifestation of a Romantic 'feeling'. Despite later finalisation in the studio, the discovery and capture of a scene direct from nature and of local light anticipated and conditioned naturalistic propositions, in a process innately out of synch with European painting. The landscape takes form in its dramatic and sentimental fullness, though punctuated by small figures that avoid a populist narrative, but ensure the impact of the scale of a ravine, raging seas, or a fateful shipwreck, insofar as the colour and the effects of the light in the sky, on the sea and on the rocks inspire. The images are real and the moments chosen, with the exception of Só Deus ! (Only God!) by Francisco Metrass, which in dramatic terms was especially created for an unnaturally Romantic sentimental scene. MAS



The intensity of this sculpture is expressed in the contrast between the latent dynamism of the figure and the fixed downward gaze, that introduces an interiority in which there exists the echo of an earlier age. O Desterrado (The Exiled) consequently became the painful consciousness of nostalgia for a bygone age. The intertwined fingers, the foot supported by the leg and the tightly stretched lips are so many other signs of the restlessness of this wounded consciousness to which it alludes. In the sense that that which cannot be apprehended from an absent age is what lies beyond the visible, this piece provoked a rupture in the harmony between the ideal and form, features of an aesthetic based on Beauty as the epitome of artistic creation, and launched art's pre-modern age in Portugal. PL



The image of individual affirmation, the portrait reflects the connection between liberalism and Romanticism. Life experience and philanthropic tendencies, subjectivism, an element of rationality and a desire to confirm individual status emerge from the expressions of the figures, and from the emblematic and ostentatious Romantic portrait of a bourgeoisie confirmed in aristocratic elegance in Victorian Lisbon. In contrast, a discreet concern for individual knowledge is incorporated into a rare series of self-portraits of Portuguese painters, insofar as it highlights their melancholy expressions. MAS



The small landscapes favoured by the middle class were rendered by Alfredo Keil as scenes of spontaneous and nostalgic rural simplicity inter-linked with the luxurious homes of the petit bourgeoisie, documenting their daily life in detail, an approach also followed by the portraitist Ferreira Chaves. An uncertain realism, devoid of criticism, found in the work of Alfredo de Andrade a fresh understanding of colour, light and ambience, and drew it towards a naturalistic actualisation, in isolated and absent experiences. Lupi assumed the dual functions of rendering the desire to be seen and ostentation of this 'parvenu' bourgeoisie and of functioning as an element of transition between the Romantic and naturalist generation. The portrait was the mode of representation of the bourgeois triumph and was central to renewing forms of domination, based on the power of the image, stressing and confusing the contradictory notions of realism. MAS



Trends in the depiction of historical imagery in art intersected with literature and produced a picturesque taste for contrasts (between principles, characters, moral values, landscapes and colours) that became descriptive and anecdotal in order to allegorize the present. In the painting of Camões, possibly a self-portrait by Francisco Metrass, created in Paris, the poet's individual fate is adapted to fit the artist's personal disillusionment, his tragic desperation faced with the collective fate of his homeland and the loneliness he feels amongst his fellow artists. This mythicising of historical figures, employed as a motive and a symbol, conveys the obsession of a country that has no present and projects its existence in historical terms. In literature, the myth of King Dom Sebastião is a thread running through the 19th century and is consolidated in Almeida Garrett's novel Frei Luís de Sousa . In The Lusiads , Camões also refers to the tragic defeat of the young king, depicted in Simões de Almeida's sensitive and detailed sculpture, in a language that is structurally sentimental, narrative and ideological. PL



Very different, in fact opposite, to the idyllic ruralism was the world depicted by other artists, who opted for the individual and, more particularly, group portrait to represent other social values. Besides portraits of figures who were related to the artists, members of the urban bourgeoisie, those portrayed were also the current and future elite of the Portuguese cultural scene. António Ramalho, who was more concerned with descriptive issues, concentrated on the characteristic fashions and symbols of the way of life of this class. Columbano, who purposely worked outside the aesthetics of his age, converted the portrait into a profound reflection on the crisis affecting middle class society. Columbano developed his painting in the uneasy equilibrium between the memory of 17th century Spanish and Dutch painting and a curiosity for Manet's chromatic syntheses, the result also ultimately standing on the edge of modernity. María Jesús Ávila



Just as Garrett appealed to others to go out and discover Portugal, so Ramalho Ortigão in 1872 persisted in the absence of a genre painter and interpreter of human reality in directing veristic methods of reproducing reality towards traditional themes, such as the landscape and the portrait. The shifting of Silva Porto's modern proposition towards an attractive and sunny vernacular style, by means of capturing the genre scene, was hailed by critics limited to an appreciation of a painting's descriptive aspects. This popular success, determinant for a style's affirmation, presented in countless unnaturally spontaneous and picturesque situations, by means of 'veristic' narratives following on from the genre theme of the Romantic generation, established these images as scenes from a "national rustic odyssey" (Fialho de Almeida). In scenes akin to Eça de Queiroz's city/country dichotomy, with powerful colour schemes and fitting captions, they facilitate a dialogue with the observer via the detailed rural figures. Held up as characteristically Portuguese, these figures, which are rarely city dwellers or bourgeoisie, illustrate scenes that would be adapted to fit a nationalist ideology, particularly from the 1930-40s onwards, convenient for reinforcing the idea of the peasant's perpetual simplicity. MAS



The only portrait of Lisbon's naturalist generation, participants in the exhibitions of the Grupo do Leão (Lion Group) and frequenters of the public house that gave them their name, was painted by Columbano. This painting marked the end of one phase of Columbano's work, and relative to it everything changed. The background is light and neutral, ideal for inscribing the figures that become silhouettes. The degree of light and dark is identical throughout the canvas and the palette almost rejects colour, consigning itself to the frugal use of monochrome tones. The detail of the figures certainly stems from individual studio poses transferred and integrated into the whole, at times somewhat unnaturally, which gives the work a slightly odd look. This reveals an intentional care in preserving the identity of each member and not subsuming him in the whole. The figures are arranged along a long horizontal strip and framed by columns and a parapet, which preserve the idea of a stage-like space for the creators of this new Portuguese art. PL



Silva Porto and Marques de Oliveira, upon return from their respective sojourns in Paris, brought with them the practice of painting in the open air that they had admired and shared with the painters of the Barbizon School. A moment of renewal was experienced with the examination of the possibilities of natural light, bringing the understanding of nature and its pictorial approach up to date, based on a new understanding of colour, on the movement of light and on the freedom of the referent, which presumed nothing less than the abandonment of the traditional categories that had dominated painting. The portrayal of the spontaneous and the instant at times recorded the signs of ephemerality and continuous transformation of the landscape. And in Pousão there existed someone who could confer structural sense on the chromatic spots that already hinted at issues of construction that were more modern and free from any relationship with ruralism as a mythical national image. MJA



In the decadent atmosphere of the late 19th century, Retrato de Antero Quental (Portrait of Antero Quental), Columbano's masterpiece, emerged as the portrait of the failure of a whole generation - that of the 70s. The tortured face that emerges from the shadows of a dematerialising body is the image of an entire generation's loss of spirit, of the anguish that its rununciation causes and of the foretelling of a sad fate, given that, faced with its countrymen's resistance, it had abandoned its efforts at modernisation. As the century came to a close, the civilisation that this 'defeated' generation had sought - technical and cultural progress - remained a distant dream in Portugal, and the early years of the 20th century were but a continuation of the 19th. Even Luciano Freyre in his nostalgic allegory of mythical nature had to search outside Portugal, in London, for the twisted and threatening scenario of the industrial landscape. And even when modernity in art was foreseen and proclaimed by the work of António Carneiro and, more particularly, in several of Aurélia de Sousa's works, it was rebuffed with equal zeal and consigned to a world of nostalgia and longing. MJA




Guided tours [advance booking; free admission]

Pedro Lapa. 29th March. Tuesday. 6.30 pm

María Jesús Ávila. 20th April. Wednesday. 1.00 pm

Maria de Aires Silveira. 3rd May. Tuesday. 6.30 pm