José de Almada Negreiros  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

José Sobral de Almada Negreiros (São Tomé e Príncipe, São Tomé, Mé-Zóchi District, Trindade, Roça Saudade, April 7, 1893- Lisbon, Hospital de São Luís dos Franceses, June 15, 1970) was a Portuguese painter, poet and writer. He was born in the then colony of São Tomé e Príncipe, the son of a portuguese farmer António Lobo de Almada Negreiros and a quarter-black and three quarters-portuguese mother Elvira Freire Sobral.

Life

In 1913 he made his first individual exhibition and along with Fernando Pessoa and Mário de Sá-Carneiro, and in 1915 publishes poems and texts in the artistic magazine Orpheu, that would introduce modern literature in Portugal. In the following years his artistic production will be wide and prolific; from easel paintings to murals, glass-windows, illustration, printmaking and scenography, from novels, playwrights to poems, essays and panfletary manifests, he became a key artist in Portuguese modern art, influenced by Cubism and, mainly, by Futurism. His role, during António de Oliveira Salazar's authoritarian regime is however ambiguous, assuming both as an "aligned" artist (doing public mural paintings or propaganda posters) and a provocative critic of Portuguese society of the time.

In 1934 he marries with painter Sarah Afonso (May 13, 1899December 14, 1983), after coming back from stays in Paris and Madrid, and continues his role of "artistic agitator" within Portuguese oppressed society of the time until his death. In that year they had their only son José Afonso de Almada Negreiros, who married Maria José de Sampaio e Melo de Vasconcelos, of the Counts (formerly Viscounts de Torres Novas), paternal granddaughter of Augusto de Vasconcelos.

He was also, even if sparely, an actor and a dancer although that shows his compreehension that all forms of art are intimately linked.

Painting and visual arts

Almada Negreiros always called himself a futurist artist, inspired by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and other modern artists, however his style is wider, and its hardly defined into a category. Adding to this modern approach his works also reveals a decorative and arabesque richness and sometimes a geometrical abstraction. His public art is often political engaged as mural of "Gare Maritima de Alcantara" shows, however, many of his paintings and drawings show common people in daily affairs or attitudes usual in socialist art. His work as visual artist extends to tapestry, printmaking, theater and ballet scenography.

Novels and writings

An important part of his artistic production is literary. He wrote novels, poems, playwrights, essays and manifests that were, in his lifetime, published in books, magazines, newspapers or even low cost booklets and flyers. In his novels and playwrights there is a description of daily affair of people besides a sense of the absurd and non-sense that can be related (preceding them) with writers like Eugène Ionesco or Arthur Adamov. His literary work is highy evolved with his artistic view, often visual and "geometric" in his descriptions and backgrounds. His manifests were highly provocative, like "Manifesto Anti-Dantas", a humorous and aggressive text against Júlio Dantas, a major figure of arts and culture of Salazar's regime which stands as a banner against mediocrity and conformism. He also wrote essays on the theory of colours, the Portuguese antique painting, geometry and gave numerous conferences on cultural matters.




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