Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso
Year, Birthplace 1887, Portugal
Year, Place of death 1918, Portugal
Born in the north of Portugal to a family of rural landowners in Manhufe in the parish of Mancelos, Amarante, Amadeo de Souza Cardoso began his studies at the University of Coimbra before moving to Lisbon in 1905 to study architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts. Aware of the limits of the teaching that he received, he decided to move to Paris the following year to continue his studies at the studios of Jules Godefroy and Jacques Freynet before quickly abandoning them to become a painter. In the eight years that he spent in Paris, living in the neighbourhood of Montparnasse, he became friends with artists such as Alexander Archipenko, Umberto Boccioni, Constantin Brancusi, Juan Gris, Amedeo Modigliani, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, Otto Freundlich, Gino Severini and Max Jacob. In 1911 Modigliani exhibited sculptures of heads and drawings in his Portuguese friend’s studio on the rue du Colonel Combes. Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso began to be influenced by the style of art nouveau. He later experimented with a hybrid style in which he combined these linear shapes with cubism and futurism, using curved geometric lines. The influence of Modigliani can also be noted in his drawings. Like his friends, Souza-Cardoso became fascinated by African sculpture. He also became enthusiastic about the stage sets and costumes of Serguei Diaghilev’s Ballets russes, designed by Alexandre Benois, Alexandre Golovine and Natalia Gontcharova. From 1909 onwards, the Ballets russes visited Paris on tour every year. In 1912 he published Dessin XX [Drawing XX], a portfolio with a preface by Jérôme Doucet containing twenty drawings done between 1911 and 1912, all inspired by Flaubert’s short story La Légende de Saint Julien l’Hospitalier. This work, his crowning achievement in this period, was praised by the critic Louis Vauxcelles. He began exhibiting at the Salon des indépendants in 1911 and at the Salon d’automne the following year. In 1913 he exhibited in Berlin at the Galerie Der Sturm (Salon d’automne) and in New York at the Armory Show, an exhibition which would go down in history. He began to enjoy success when, for example, the collector Arthur Jerome Eddy bought three of his paintings at the opening of this exhibition in Chicago. The paintings now form part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection. During his time in Paris, he returned every year to Manhufe. The painter's attempts to reconcile his two cultures are reflected in a self-portrait dating from 1913 which depicts him as a ‘true’ Parisian, wearing a beret but posing in front of a Portuguese landscape. After working in India ink to create his portfolio, Souza-Cardoso turned to colour, bringing his work closer to Robert Delaunay's orphism than to the analytical cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. When war was declared in the spring of 1914 he was staying on his property in Portugal, where he would remain throughout the four years of the conflict. Far from Paris but inspired by the landscapes around him, he continued with his experiments, the most remarkable of which are a series of vividly coloured and expressionist watercolours which he called Têtes d’océan [Ocean Heads, 1915-1916]. His most significant works date from this period. He attempted to bring about a sort of fusion between cubism, futurism, Russian cubo-futurism and expressionism, always exploring new solutions Between 1914 and 1918 he continued to meet Robert and Sonia Delaunay, with whom he attended Sunday soirées in 1913. The married couple, taken unawares in Fontarabie when war broke out, sought exile in Spain and later in Portugal. Between the summer of 1915 and the end of 1917 they lived in Vila do Conde. With them, Souza Cardoso conceived plans for exhibitions and illustrated books that never came to fruition. Certain works, such as Sonia Delaunay’s Jouet portugais [Portuguese Toy, 1915], are similar to Souza Cardoso’s work and to that of their mutual friend, the Portuguese artist Eduardo Vianna. In 1916, Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso staged an exhibition in Lisbon that brought together one hundred and fourteen paintings under the title Abstractions. The exhibition was to cause a scandal. In 1918 he died of Spanish flu at the age of 30. His premature death, his marginal status in Portugal and the political situation in his native country over the course of several decades would lead to his work being somewhat forgotten. He was first rediscovered in 1953, when the Amarante Municipal Museum dedicated a room to his work. In the 1980s the majority of works belonging to private collectors were purchased by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. Very few of his works can be found outside Portugal. A major retrospective exhibition held in Washington, Chicago and New York in 1999-2008 shone a light on this talented and original painter who worked at the crossroads between all of the European avant-garde movements but was sadly unable to give the world the full worth of his art. AC