April 25, 1974 Revolution
The Revolution of April 25, 1974 deposed the dictatorial regime of the Estado Novo, in force since 1933, initiating the implementation of a democratic regime. The revolutionary atmosphere felt in the streets encouraged the participation of artists, in an explosion of graphic art. Thus, after the revolution, the murals and posters linked to this political transformation are remarkable. In a euphoric aesthetic trait, artists and the population took on an intervention role through art, expressing their voice, which had previously been suppressed.
Starting from the artistic manifestations during the 25th of April 1974 to the subsequent transformations, we will understand the repercussions and the true impact of the revolution on Portuguese art.
Artistic manifestations during the revolution
The impact of the revolution brought democratization to access to culture and art, but it also contributed, in artistic terms, to the discovery of new artistic expressions and the manifestation of techniques that were once monopolized by the government. This is the case of posters, which at this revolutionary time were a form of expression of great impact and strength. With distinct aesthetic language, these had a greater purpose: communication. Thus, artists end up submitting to the new canons of revolutionary representation to the detriment of this cause.
Delacroix on the 25th of April in Athens by Nikias Skapinakis , 1975
In the work Delacroix no 25 de Abril in Athens , artist Nikias Skapinakis portrays the deposition of the dictatorial regime representing the peculiarities of the Portuguese people, although deeply inspired by the famous painting about the French revolution, The Freedom guiding the people by Eugène Delacroix. At the center of this work, he places freedom on a plinth, in order to demonstrate his superiority in relation to the other figures involved. This robust woman, barefoot and with her chest half uncovered, carries with her a gun and a red flag, guiding the people forward, towards their independence. On the Portuguese flag, red represents the blood of those who served in the name of the nation; however, during the revolution, this color takes on another meaning due to the carnations, which were placed in the soldiers' rifles. Thus, in an object, the artist represents and recalls the lives lost by freedom and the impact of the red carnations in this historical episode. On the left-hand plinth, this revolutionary icon is again depicted with two men raising flowers. On the plinth on the right, two people with their hands in the air are portrayed in a movement of dance and contentment. The remaining figures are cheerfully represented, raising their hand with the symbol of peace.
Poetry is on the street: April XXV, 1974 by Vieira da Silva , 1974
Invited by poet Sophia de Mello Breyner, Vieira da Silva creates the posters Poetry is on the street: April XXV, 1974 , about the moment of revolution, when the population takes to the streets with red carnations. The Portuguese artist's remarkable abstract traits show the intention to privilege the poster's aesthetic function, to the detriment of communication. During the Estado Novo period, the artist did not live in Portugal due to nationality conflicts — hers and her husband, Árpád-Szenes . He is a figure who actively participates in this act of political change through his art. However, he only returned to Portugal ten years after the revolution.
Art in Portugal after April 25, 1974
The revolution of April 25, 1974 is a remarkable event, not only in political and social terms, but also in artistic terms. With the country's opening to the outside world, there is greater freedom of expression and perception of the world's artistic production. In the artistic field, conceptual art was discovered later than in Europe and the United States. At a time of transition and uncertainty, there were spaces for teaching (Circle of Plastic Arts in Coimbra and the Cooperativa Árvore do Porto), galleries (Judite Dacruz in Lisbon, Ogiva in Óbidos, Quadrum in Lisbon and Modulo in Porto), and events (Bienal Vila Nova de Cerveira, Performance Meetings in Almada, Porto and Torres Vedras) which were essential for the cultural development of Portugal. At this time, several names emerged, but the careers that were consolidated, critically and commercially in these years of crisis, are the previously established artists: Júlio Pomar , Paula Rego , Mário Cesariny , Cruzeiro Seixas , João Cutileiro and José Guimarães .
Pianist by José de Guimarães , 1974
During this decade, Júlio Pomar dedicated himself to collages, oval compositions, erotic themes where he reveals an expressive and rigorous gesture. Paula Rego also creates some collages, but maintains her cruel imagination with expressive turbulence. Mário Cesariny and Cruzeiro Seixas continue in the same surrealist language that they never abandoned, successfully gaining greater visibility. José Guimarães looks for inspiration in the African imagination, in several famous authors, works and themes of art and begins to work in series. It is also at this stage that the Portuguese artist creates an essential formal vocabulary for his production in the following decade.
Statue of King Sebastião by João Cutileiro , 1973
The sculpture from this period is ironically designed by a commission from the Estado Novo, the statue of King Sebastião by João Cutileiro , due to its striking artistic language and the way in which it questions the current political regime and its cultural policies. João Cutileiro's works lay the foundations for the following decades, making him one of the outstanding artists in the Portuguese art scene.
After the revolution, political stability arrived and with it the economic growth that guarantees the formation of a middle class. With purchasing capacity, the market expands with the opening of new galleries in Lisbon and Porto. Thus, the democratization of culture and art in Portugal brought, in artistic terms, the discovery of new artistic expressions, the opening of new exhibition spaces and the growth of the art market.