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Monday, March 16, 2015

José de Almada Negreiros

A José de Almada Negreiros sampler.
Creativity is very much like a stream. Like a stream, it may be shallow or quite deep. It may flow slowly or in a torrential rage. Creativity may be crystal clear or muddy and obscure. Sometimes this creative stream may, in fact completely run dry. It can also be diverted, or be dammed into a stagnant pool. It may be radiantly beautiful or grossly ugly, dependent upon its content and the light in which it is seen. Though all of these analogies are interesting and worthy of study, in the case of Portuguese artist Jose de Alamada Negreiros, we might want to consider just how broad this stream of creative endeavors can be, as opposed the rather narrow tributaries or estuaries most of us reflect.
The Bathers, 1925, José de Almada Negreiros, one of his earlier paintings.
José de Almada Negreiros Self-portrait
Alamada Negreiros was, of course, a painter. Otherwise it's unlikely I'd have come upon his work or would have deemed him interesting enough and important enough to highlight in this manner. However, Negreiros was a good deal more than a pigment pusher. He was also adept at tapestry design, engraving, murals, caricature, mosaic, stained glass, and azulejo (tin-glazed ceramic tile work). Moreover, those were just his talents in the visual arts. Negreiros also worked at various times as a dancer, a choreographer, and an actor (radio) in the performing arts, as well as a playwright, poet, novelist, essayist, and critic in the area of the literary arts. That's a pretty broad stream of creative endeavors. Of course, like all streams, his work is deeper in some places than others, but from what I've seen and read, the creative flow in his stream would be "over my head" most of the time.
Study for a Theater Decoration, José de Almada Negreiros
The Card Game, 1947,
José de Almada Negreiros
José de Almada Negreiros was born in 1893 on the Portuguese colony island of São Tomé (located sort of in the armpit of Africa just off the western coast). The island had originally been settled as a penal colony, but also as a remote location where Jewish children, taken from their parents, could be raised as Christians. In later years, sugar plantations evolved, as large numbers of African slaves were imported. It's not know from which of these groups Negreiros came, but the family name suggests some lineage relating to the latter group. As a child of three, Alamada's mother died. His father placed him in a boarding school in the Campolide, section of Lisbon, where he remained until the age of seventeen when the 1910 Republican Revolution deposed the Portuguese monarchy and established a republic. The school closed, and Negreiros moved up to the Escola Internacional where he completed his art studies.
Departure of Immigrants tapestry, Jose de Alamada Negreiros
Artist of the Future
In 1913 Negreiros had his first one-man show, featuring 90 drawings, followed two years later by a group show along with Fernando Pessoa and Mário de Sá-Carneiro. In the meantime, he published poems in the Orpheu art magazine, introducing modernist literature and art in Portugal. This same year Almada Negreiros also wrote the famous Anti-Dantas Manifesto, a humorous attack on the traditionalist and middle-class older generation. In 1915 Negreiros wrote the O Sonho da Rosa (The Dream of the Rose) ballet. As his creative stream broaden, in 1917, Negreiros moved on to Futuristic aesthetics, writing in Futurista magazine, the Ultimatum Futurista, às Gerações Portuguezas do Século XX (Futurist Ultimatum to the Portuguese Generations of the 20th-Century"). That same year at the Futurist Session Conference, which he had heavily promoted, Negreiros appeared wearing a flight suit (left).
Jose de Alamada Negreiros the cartoonist.

Double Portrait, 1934-36,
José de Almada Negreiros
After the war, during the 1920s, Negreiros divided his time between Paris, Madrid, and Lisbon, painting, writing, and in general, working to stir up the stagnant pool of Portuguese art with a steady stream of fresh images and ideas, often in the form of public murals. Moving rapidly into middle-age, Negreiros married, in 1934, the painter Sarah Alfonso, and settled down in Lisbon where that same year he further broadened his creative endeavors in a joint effort with his wife as they conceived their only son, Jose Alfonso. José de Almada Negreiros died in 1970 at the age of seventy-seven, leaving a vast legacy of avant-garde work that is still being studied by experts today.
José de Almada Negreiros,

Portrait of Fernando Pessoa, 1954, Almada Negreiros


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