Portuguese people have always been explorers. During the 15th and 16th centuries, they set out to discover Africa, India, Brazil and Australia (or did they…?). Later on, they invented the Herrmann Wall Phone and built up the first nationwide electronic road toll collection system. Thanks Portugal!
Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso was born in Amarante, Portugal, in 1887. He too was a genuine explorer. Since a very early age he showed his ancestors’ curiosity for the unknown.
At the age of 19 he went to Paris – alas already discovered! – where he started studying painting. By then, he was especially interested in caricatures. Around 1910, influenced both by Cubism and by Futurism, he became one of the first modern Portuguese painters. He soon made friends with illustrious personalities such as Amedeo Modigliani, Robert and Sonia Delaunay and Antoni Gaudí.
However, Souza-Cardoso stands unique among the artists of his time. His style is aggressive and vivid both in form and colour. His works may seem chaotic at first sight but are actually subtly balanced. Also, they have funny titles like “Keyhole / GUITAR IN LABOUR / Bon ménage / Avant-Garde Strawberry”.
In 1911, he participated in the Salon des Indépendants. In 1913, Souza-Cardoso exhibited in Gallery J of the famous Armory Show, held in New York, Chicago and Boston, right next to the Cubist ‘Chamber of Horrors’.
World War I forced him to return to Portugal in 1914 where he married Lucie Meynardi Peccetto and initiated a meteoric career in the experimentation of new forms of expression. Not everyone liked that: In 1915, a visitor of an exhibition of his spit on a painting. Another one assaulted him on the street. But Souza-Cardoso, ever the Portuguese, kept on exploring.
On 25 October 1918, way too early, he died at the age of 30 in Espinho, of the Spanish flu.
His talent was long time forgotten, but he has finally come to recognition by the international critics as the most eclectic, important and influential Portuguese artist of all times.
And the best part is: The Grand Palais in Paris will launch the largest Souza-Cardoso retrospective since 1958 on 20 April 2016. So wake up your inner Amadeo and make your way to the dazzling City of Lights!