Amadeo de Souza Cardoso

The Artwork of Amadeo de Souza Cardoso

Born in November of 1887 in the town of Manhule, Amadeo de Souza Cardoso was one of the first generation of Portuguese modernist painters. Known for the exceptional quality of his work, his short career covered all the historical avant-garde movements of the early twentieth=century. 

The son of a wealthy landowner and vintner, Amadeo, at the age of eighteen, traveled to Lisbon and entered the Superior School of Fine Arts where he developed his skills as a designer and caricaturist. In November of 1906, he traveled to Paris with his friend and painter Francisco Smith and lived in an apartment on the Boulevard de Montparnasse. After a caricature he had drawn during a dinner was published  in Portugal’s “O Primerro de Jameiro” newspaper, Amadeo decided to devote himself to painting. 

In 1908, Amadeo de Souza Cardoso established himself at a studio located at 14 Cité Falguière , which became a social gathering place for Portuguese artists including Manuel Bentes, Eduardo Viana, and Domingos Rebelo, among others. At this time, Amadeo began to attend the ateliers of the Académie des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Viti, where he studied under the Spanish painter Angalada Camarasa, whose use of intense coloring presaged the arrival of Fauvism. 

In 1911, Amadeo exhibited his work in the Salon des Indépendents and soon became close friends with writers and artists such as Gertrude Stein, Amedeo Modigliani, Alexander Archipenko, Robert Delaunay, and the Italian Futurists Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini.  In 1912, Amadeo published his album, “XX Dessuab”, containing twenty drawings with a forward written by author Jerome Doucet, and republished Gustave Flaubert’s “La Légende de Saint Julien to l’Hospitalier” in a calligraphic manuscript with illustrations. Amadeo de Souza Cardoso participated in two important exhibitions in 1913: the Armory Show in the United States that traveled to New York City, Boston and Chicago, and the Erste Deutsche Herbstsalon held at the Galerie Der Strum in Berlin. These two exhibitions were the first to present the new wave of modern art to the public. Seven of the eight works Amadeo displayed at the Armory show sold; three of these were purchased by lawyer and art critic Arthur Jerome Eddy, a prominent member of the first generation of American modern art collectors.

Returning to Portugal in 1914, Amadeo began experimentation in all the new forms of artistic expression, and married Lucia Pecetto, whom he had previously met during his 1908 stay in Paris. In April of 1914, he sent three new works for an exhibition at the London Salon; however, due to the outbreak of World War I, the show was canceled. During the war years, Amadeo maintained contact with other Portuguese artists and poets and reunited with Robert and Sonia Delaunay who had relocated to Portugal. In 1916, he published his “Twelve Reproductions” through Tipografia Santos in Porto and exhibited a collection of one hundred-fourteen works at a solo exhibition in Oporto and later in Lisbon, entitled “Abstraccionism”. 

At this time, the Cubist movement had  expanded throughout Europe and was an important influence to Amadeo de Souza Cardoso’s  style of analytical cubism. He continued to explore expressionism and, in his last works, experimented with many new techniques. In 1918, Amadeo was stricken with a skin disease which impeded his painting. On the 25th of October in 1918, Amadeo de Souza Cardoso died, at the age of thirty, in Espinho, Portugal, of the Spanish influenza, a pandemic which savaged the world at the end of World War I. 

After his death, Amadeo de Souza Cardoso’s work was shown in a 1925 retrospective in France which was well received by both critics and the public. Ten years later, the Souza-Cardoso Prize was established in Portugal to distinguish modern painters. Amadeo’s work remained relatively unknown until 1952, when a exhibition of his work in Portugal regained the public’s attention. Since then, only two retrospectives have been held, one in 1958 and one in 2016, both at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Tope Insert Image: Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, “The Hawks”, 1912, India Ink on Paper, 27 x 24.3 cm, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

Bottom Insert Image: Amadeo de Souza Cordoso, “Self Portrait”, 1913, Graphite on Paper, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum