Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso: A Pioneer of Modern Art in Portugal

March 19, 2024

Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, born in Amarante, in the town of Manhufe, in November 1887, is today recognized as one of the most prominent avant-garde artists of the early 20th century. His legacy is intertwined with movements such as Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism, reaching, at many points, and in a sustained way, a level that is comparable to the top international art of his time.

Black and white portrait of Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, a prominent avant-garde artist of the early 20th century

Portrait of Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, whose innovative work continues to inspire visitors at the Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso Museum in Amarante, Portugal

Amadeo’s path took him first to Lisbon, when in 1908 he attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Lisbon. It was here, surprisingly, that he delved into architecture, from where his first caricatures emerged, the first traces of his artistic activity and legacy. At the age of 19, he went to Paris, where much of the artistic community of the time was converging, embracing the ruptures that were so different from what he had left behind and remaining there for eight years. It was during this period that Amadeo established and refined all his skills, as well as his artistic visions. When he settled in the Montparnasse district, a famous meeting place for intellectuals and artists, he made contact with other Portuguese artists living in Paris, including Francisco Smith, Eduardo Viana, and Emmerico Nunes. In 1909 he attended the classes of the painter Anglada-Camarasa at the Académie Vitti and later the Academies Libres and in 1910 he established a strong and lasting friendship with Amedeo Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi, and Alexander Archipenko. In 1911, a joint exhibition was originally opened in his studio, where the Portuguese artist exhibited some of his drawings. Among the visitors to this exhibition were several figures from Paris’ intellectual and artistic elite, including Pablo Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire. It should also be noted that it was in 1907 that he met Lucie Meynardi Pecetto, whom he married seven years later.

The interaction with the avant-garde of the early 20th century will be the driving force behind Amadeo’s work, where we can see in his paintings allusions to the sun, the mountains, watermills and mills, fairground targets, songs, puppets, and popular figures. Even though he was in Paris, he always ended up extending the legacy of his native Portugal, which he often referred to as “prodigious Portugal, the supreme country for artists”.

It was at the age of 31 that Amadeo left us, as a result of complications from the Spanish flu pandemic, which in 1918 brought an abrupt end to a mature pictorial oeuvre and a promising international career that was still in its infancy. It was with this enormous and valuable legacy that Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso is now considered one of the most influential artists in the history of modern art in Portugal. He is appreciated for his stylistic innovation and for his contribution to the introduction of modernist currents in Portuguese art. To delve deeper and better discover all this work that has come down to us, then there’s nothing better than visiting the Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso Museum, a cultural institution located in Amarante, Portugal, dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the artist’s works.