José Sobral de Almada Negreiros was a Portuguese artist. He was born in the colony of Portuguese São Tomé and Príncipe, the son of a Portuguese father, António Lobo de Almada Negreiros, and a Santomean mother, Elvira Freire Sobral. Besides literature and painting, Almada developed ballet choreographies, and worked on tapestry, engraving, murals, caricature, mosaic, azulejo and stained glass.
Life and Work
His mother died in 1896. In 1900 he enters in a jesuit boarding school in Campolide, Lisbon. After the October 1910 republican revolution this school is closed and Almada enters the Escola Internacional, also in Lisbon.
In 1913 he made his first individual exhibition, showing 90 drawings. In 1915, along with Fernando Pessoa and Mário de Sá-Carneiro, publishes poems and texts in the Orpheu artistic magazine, which would introduce modernist literature and art in Portugal. This same year Almada Negreiros writes the famous Manifesto Anti-Dantas e por extenso, a humorous attack against a more traditionalist and bourgeois older generation. In 1915 the artist also conceives the O Sonho da Rosa ballet.
In 1917, with the scope of introducing to the Portuguese public the Futuristic aesthetics, Almada Negreiros publishes, together with Santa-Rita Pintor, the Portugal Futurista magazine, writing the Ultimatum Futurista, às gerações portuguezas do século XX ("Futurist ultimatum to the Portuguese generations of the 20th century"). He promotes a conference, the Sessão Futurista ("Futurist Session"), where he appears wearing a flight suit.
Between the years 1918-20 Almada lives in Paris. To support himself, he works as a dancer and as a factory worker. In 1920 he returns to Lisbon. In 1925 he produces two paintings for one of the most famous cafés in Lisbon, A Brasileira. In 1927 he goes to Madrid where he writes in several Spanish publications like Cronica and La Farsa. He writes El Uno, tragédia de la Unidad.
Back in Portugal, in the following years his artistic production will be wide and prolific as he becomes 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 married painter Sarah Afonso (May 13, 1899 – December 14, 1983). Re-settled for good in Portugal, he would continue in his role as "artistic agitator" within the oppressed society that was Portugal until the time of his death. In 1934 the couple had their only son, José Afonso de Almada Negreiros.
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.