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) was able to keep up with world art trends by opening the doors to abstract expressionism - artistic movement that acquired relevance in the post-war era in America and later in Europe. the brushstrokes fast, wide and dense of his paintings remained forever in the visual memory, having thus had a great influence on other painters up to the present. Learn more about the artist who decisively influenced art in Portugal in this article.
Who was Artur Bual?
Artur Bual he 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 individual exhibition was in the early 1950s, when he moved to Amadora with his family. Between 1959 and 1960, he was awarded a scholarship by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in Paris, having at that time 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 artistic current that was so famous on the other side of the Atlantic. O abstract expressionism inspired by the European works of Hartung, Wols, Soulages, acquired relevance in post-war America with Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, among other artists. In Portugal, people still lived under a dictatorial regime and tendencies ranged between neo-realism and surrealism. However, in 1958,Artur Bual reaches its maximum exponent, taking the first steps towards abstract painting with quick, broad and dense brushstrokes. His works were produced in a passionate and sensitive way, expressing his experiences through chromatic density. Being a born experimentalist, he used different supports, from canvas to wood, oil, acrylic or the fusion of various materials. Historian João Augusto França stated the firmness and determination ofArtur Bual create in the characteristics of abstract expressionism such as: "the courage to sail the high seas".
Oarms ofArtur Bual
1.The portraits of Jesus Christ
Portraits, an artistic genre used to describe the figure of a person, became a fundamental part of the work ofArtur 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 paintings of the crucifixion that emphasize the face of Jesus Christ, until the representation of the last supper. In fact, the religious theme was intensely present in the artistic career ofArtur Bual, not only in painting but also in sculpture and ceramics.
As in painting, the artist knew how to create an emotional and spontaneous language in sculpture, using the media around him. An example of this is the sculpture “Homenagem à Agricultura”, a plastically coherent composition that shows a great sense of balance and harmony, which has always accompanied the productions ofArtur Bual. The title states that this sculpture is a tribute to agriculture, however this does not represent symbolic and ancestral values, but manifests the new techniques introduced by modernity.
3. Between the figurative and abstractionism
In a notable way, Artur Bual established a relationship between free gesture and the structure of the figurative, thus making him one of the most notable artists of Portuguese painting.
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, abstract biomorphism. Anthropomorphism is, moreover, 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 motion, the figure tends to be reduced to agile handwriting. Many of his drawings and some more refined abstract paintings show the calligraphic sense of a language, which begins by exercising itself as a function of the white nudity of the support, before being the complete filling of the surface.” - Eurico Gonçalves (Painter and Art Critic)
5. The History ofArtur 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 Amadora CP station and for the Lisbon Underground. Simultaneously, he performed other duties, as plastic director in several theater works staged at the Teatro Experimental de 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 Happy Nights of an Apothecary" by Miguel Barbosa. He was awarded several prizes, including the Amadeo de Souza Cardoso National Prize, in 1959, one of the milestones in his career. Other rewards were the Sousa Cardoso National Prize, at the I Bienal de Paris; 1st Prize at the Modern Art Salon of the Costa do Sol Tourism Board; the 2nd prize of the BP Painting Competition; the Plastic Arts Prize 1983; Prize from the magazine "Nova Gente" and Plastic Arts in 1984. In addition, in 1997, the painter was distinguished with the Career Prize from the MAC (Contemporary Art Movement).
Where can I see the works ofArtur Bual?
You can find a collection of works by Artur Bual here! In the physical space, they are in several national and foreign collections, namely in the Palace of Justice in Lisbon, in the Modern Art Center at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in the National Museum of Modern Art, in the National Museum of Contemporary Art and in the Municipality of Amadora. In addition, the Portuguese artist has also exhibited in various spaces, such as the Pórtico and Diário de Notícias Galleries in Lisbon, the Gees van der Geer Gallery in the Netherlands, the Ayuntamiento Gallery in Córdoba, Spain, the Real Senado, Macau and Hong-Kong, between others.