works from the collections of the MNAC and the DGPC’s Archive of Photographic Documentation.
This dialogue is based on one of the most traditional artistic genres – portrait – since the invention of photography in 1839 introduced a markedly new paradigm with respect to the representation of the subject. Commercial portrait studios emerged during this period, targeting a bourgeois society that was fascinated by innovation and eager to make use of instruments that confirmed their social status.
Photography gave visibility to a society of appearance, in a mass-produced, veristic way, which would inevitably come into conflict with the metaphysical concepts of portrait painting. Thus, throughout this exhibition, we propose a contentious view between the mechanical and veristic models of representation of the subject and their interpretive aesthetics from romanticism to naturalism.
In this dialogue we come across an evident transfer of influences, since the photographic portrait was compiled using interpretive pictorial references, but painting was also reformulated in response to the new photographic realist taste for detail and verisimilitude.
Across six sections, the exhibition explores some of the most relevant tendencies and concepts that marked the aesthetics of portrait, and howphotography, painting and sculpture evolved their aesthetics and defined new artistic models, which were also representative of social changes in art. We see the lure of modernity, through ‘naturalist formulas of modern art’, as described by Ramalho Ortigão, in 1883.
Between being and appearing, between truth in art and the wish to establish realism as a new form of artistic expression, the dilemma arises: from theaffirmation of the artist with innovative enthusiasm in the observation of selfportraiture, of human drama and the portrayal of nature, in notes on intimism, to the realisation of what the spirit feels, in portraits captured under the influence of the subject and proud of their ‘immortal unconscious’.
Emília TavaresMaria de Aires Silveira