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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Jorge Colaço

Church of Saint Ildefonso.
Approximately 11,000 azulejo tiles cover the façade of the church, all created by artist Jorge Colaço dating from, 1932.
Today as I was researching an artist, I came upon the term "azulejo painting." Now I've studied art and periodically been around great art for most of my adult life, but that one stumped me. I had to look it up. It turns out, "azulejo" is Portuguese for "tile" as in tile painting. Okay, that I've heard of, though I knew (and still know) very little about it. Most of my knowing centers on the Netherlands and Delft, where the blue on white tiles have long been a symbol of that city and its art. It turns out the Dutch and the Portuguese were relative latecomers to this highly distinctive art form. It's origins can be traced at least as far back as the Moorish occupation of Spain from the 710 AD to around the 16th-century. The Spanish city of Seville became the major center of the Hispanic tile industry. The earliest azulejo in the 13th century were panels of tile-mosaic. Tiles were glazed in a single color, cut into geometric shapes, and assembled to form geometric patterns. Many examples can be admired in the Alhambra of Granada.

The interior of San Bento Railway station is decorated with tens of thousands of individual ceramic tiles, individually hand
painted between two kiln firings.
That's probably more than you really wanted to know about tile painting. In any case, the Portuguese painter, Jorge Colaco was an azulejo painter. The name of Jorge Colaço is closely linked to Porto, through the beautiful tile panels of the S. Bento Railway Station (above), considered one of the most beautiful in the world. The tiles that line the walls of the lobby celebrate this year the 100th anniversary of its application as decorative pieces that give the place an incomparable beauty, transforming it into a surprising spectacle for all who visit.
Gigante Adamastor, Jorge Colaço
Also in Porto, is the Church of Saint Ildefonso (top) where the tiles of Jorge Colaco decorate the outside of the church. These tiles depict scenes from the life of Saint Ildefonso and figurative imagery from the Gospels. The church sits near Porto's Batalha Square, a historic, mostly pedestrian, public space often frequented by tourists. Though mass is still held there daily, the church receives many thousands of visitors each year . Though the church was completed in 1739, Colaco's tiles were not added until 1932.

His calling card?
Jorge Colaco was born in 1868 in Tangier, Morocco, the son of a diplomat. He studied in Lisbon, Madrid and Paris. After trying his hand at caricature (below), he used oil painting for his first creations. Jorge Colaço's father, besides being a diplomat, was also a painter. His son soon discovered his talent for art as well. However Jorge Colaco was mostly famous as an artist of large azulejo compositions produced in two Lisbon factories: the factory of Sacavém and the Lusitânia factory. His major works are the large panels of azulejos that can be admired on many Portuguese national buildings and also wall panels in the Faculty of Medicine of Lisbon.Colaco obtained a careful academic foundation with the painter Ferdinand Cormon, a representative of the School of Paris. In 1893 Colaco had work admitted to the Salon de Paris, a fact which, at that time, was very unusual for foreign painters.

Quite a number of painters from this period got their start as caricaturists--Monet, for instance.
Jorge Colaço cultivated the art of drawing as a caricaturist, and was quite adept. For some ten years he held the position of Director of the Humorous Supplement of the newspaper O Século. But he was a painter, first and foremost. Yet, it was his tiles that became more notable, even considered by many experts, as responsible for the rebirth of this art in Portugal. He introduced several innovations in processes and techniques, particularly the technique of screen printing applied to tiles. He was able to transfer to the tile a painting applied on the previously fired colorless glaze which was then subjected to a second firing. Thus, it was possible to obtain either watercolor effects, or results similar to those of oil painting. The themes of his tiles were mostly related to Portuguese national history.

Azulejo panel by Jorge Colaço (1922) that decorates the Sports Pavilion in the Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon.
Among Jorge Colaco's most important works are tile panels in the Palace Hotel of Bussaco dating from 1907; São Bento railway station in Porto (1905–1916); the Sports Pavilion of Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon (1922); façade of the Church of Saint Ildefonso in Porto (1932), and many others. He also has works in Brazil, Windsor Castle in England, the William Rappard Center in Geneva, and several other countries. Colaco worked throughout his life in both Lisbon and Coimbra, where many of the panels mentioned were executed. He was married to the poet Branca de Gonta Colaço. He died in Oeiras, Portugal, in 1942 at the age of seventy-four.

Ox Cart, Jorge Colaco, Railway Station, De Sao Bento.
One of Colaco's smaller works.


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