Who was Arthur Bual? The History and Work of the Pioneer of Abstract Expressionism in Portugal

Quem foi Artur Bual? A História e a Obra do Pioneiro do Expressionismo Abstrato em Portugal

Artur Bual, the Pioneer of Abstract Expressionism in Portugal
He was one of the greatest Portuguese painters of the second half of the 20th century, a pioneer of gestural painting (abstract expressionism) in Portugal. Under a dictatorial regime, Artur Bual (1926-1999) managed to keep up with world art trends, opening the door to abstract expressionism - an artistic movement that acquired relevance in the post-war period in America and later in Europe. The quick, broad and dense brushstrokes of his paintings remain eternally in the visual memory, having thus had a great influence on other painters up to the present. Find out more about the artist who decisively influenced art in Portugal in this article.

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Who was Arthur Bual?
Artur Bual started painting at the age of 14, studied painting at the António Arroio School of Art and in 1947 began his career as a painter. His first solo exhibition was in the early 1950s, when he moved to Amadora with his family. Between 1959 and 1960, he received a scholarship from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Paris, having been in contact with the works of German Expressionism for the first time. The Portuguese painter was the first to open the doors to the so famous artistic current on the other side of the Atlantic. The abstract expressionism inspired by European works by Hartung, Wols, Soulages, acquired relevance in the post-war era in America with Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, among other artists. In Portugal, people were still living under a dictatorial regime and trends ranged between neo-realism and surrealism. However, in 1958, Artur Bual reached his peak, taking the first steps towards abstract painting with quick, wide and dense brushstrokes. His works were produced in a passionate and sensitive way, expressing his experiences through chromatic density. Being a born experimentalist, he was varied in the supports, from canvas to wood, like oil, acrylic or the fusion of various materials. The historian João Augusto França declared the firmness and determination of Artur Bual to create in the characteristics of abstract expressionism as: "the courage to sail on the high seas".

The arms of Artur Bual
1.The portraits of Jesus Christ
Portraits, an artistic genre used to describe the figure of a person, have become a fundamental part of the work of Artur Bual , many of which are invaded by the spontaneous expression of the abstract. In this genre we see the religious theme strongly present, from the crucifixion paintings that emphasize the face of Jesus Christ, to the representation of the Last Supper. In fact, the religious theme was intensely present in Artur Bual's artistic career, not only in painting but even in sculpture and ceramics.

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2. Sculpture
As in painting, the artist was able to create an emotional and spontaneous language in sculpture, using the media around him. An example of this is the sculpture “Homage to Agriculture”, a plastically coherent composition that shows a great sense of balance and harmony, which has always accompanied the productions of Artur Bual . The title states that this sculpture is a tribute to agriculture, however it does not represent symbolic and ancestral values, but manifests the new techniques introduced by modernity.

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3. Between figurative and abstractionism
In a remarkable way, Artur Bual established a relationship between the free gesture and the figurative structure, thus leading him to be one of the most remarkable artists of Portuguese painting.
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4. The human and animal body
“In the schematic representation of the female nude, in an erotic-sensual pose, there is something irreverent and provocative. In other works, the relationship with the human body is at the origin of an organic, abstracting biomorphism. Anthropomorphism is, in fact, a constant in the work of Artur Bual, even when reduced to synthetic notes or elementary graphic signs. In the gestural tracing of horses in movement, the figure tends to be reduced to an agile calligraphy. Many of his drawings and some more refined abstract paintings show the calligraphic sense of a language, which begins with the white nudity of the support, before being the total filling of the surface.” - Eurico Gonçalves (Painter and Art Critic)

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5. The History of Artur Bual beyond Abstract Painting
The Portuguese artist was known for his abstract paintings, but he also worked as a sculptor and ceramist, having executed the mosaic-panels for the CP station in Amadora and the Lisbon Metro. Simultaneously, he performed other functions, such as plastic director in several plays performed at the Experimental Theater of Cascais and Porto, he was also graphic director of the Revista de Artes e Letras "Catavento" and illustrated the books "Instinto Supremo" by Ferreira de Castro. and "The Joyful Nights of an Apothecary" by Miguel Barbosa. He was distinguished with several awards, including the Amadeo de Souza Cardoso National Award, in 1959, one of the milestones in his career. Other awards were the Sousa Cardoso National Prize, at the I Bienal de Paris; the 1st Prize of the Salon of Modern Art of the Junta de Turismo da Costa do Sol; 2nd Prize in the BP Painting Competition; the Plastic Arts Award 1983; Prize of the Magazine "Nova Gente" and Visual Arts in 1984. In addition, in 1997, the painter was distinguished with the Career Prize of MAC (Movimento de Arte Contemporânea).

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Where can I see Artur Bual's works?
You can find a collection of Artur Bual's works here ! In the physical space they are in several national and foreign collections, namely at the Lisbon Palace of Justice, at the Modern Art Center at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, at the National Museum of Modern Art, at the National Museum of Contemporary Art and at the Municipality of Amadora. In addition, the Portuguese artist has also exhibited in various spaces, such as Galerias Pórtico and Galeria Diário de Notícias in Lisbon, Galeria Gees van der Geer in Holland, Galeria do Ayuntamiento de Córdoba, Spain, Real Senado, Macau and Hong Kong, between others.


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