A historical painter by training, he enrolled as an official artist for the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps in World War I (1914–18). He witnessed and recorded various dramatic episodes and devastated landscapes in his remarkable etchings, moving drawings and tragic paintings.
In the 1920s, his superb series of portraits of Marguerite Gros, his wife, ensured his status as a notable portrait painter of women, putting him at the heart of Portuguese Modernism, although he did not fully espouse this movement. During this period, Sousa Lopes created impressive series of works featuring light at different times of the day, exploring the depiction of the movement of waves, and the toil of the fishermen in specially chosen settings – landscapes of the Portuguese coast, around the beaches of Caparica, Nazaré, Aveiro and Furadouro.
Sousa Lopes succeeded Columbano as the director of the Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea between 1929 and 1944. He worked on the expansion of the museum and pursued an acquisitions policy that concentrated mainly on 19th-century pieces, but also incorporated the work of Modernist artists for the first time.
The collection of the MNAC-MC includes a considerable number of pieces from the key stages of Sousa Lopes’ work, and this is the museum’s first monographic exhibition dedicated to the artist that was once its director. It features around 100 works, including paintings from the Musée de l’Armée in Paris that have never been displayed to the public before, but are key to understanding the artist’s sensitivity and his expressive realism.
Maria de Aires