Painter, teacher, founder of the artistic guild, militant landscape architect, António da Silva Carvalho or Silva Porto, as he became known after adopting the name of his home town, was a champion of naturalism and a lover of outdoor painting.
With Silva Porto comes the habit of painting on the field. With him his students learned to go to the countryside with a backpack, a bench and an umbrella, something that was unthinkable for the previous artistic generation – the romantic, a generation more aristocratic and less connected to the open spaces.
Divided into 8 major moments, the exhibition at the National Society of Fine Arts illustrates the artist’s entire life . The journey begins in 1860, when Silva Porto, only 10 years old, made drawings from magazines of the time. Then we have the first contact with his artistic training, which began in 1863 at the Industrial School of Porto; the painter attends all available courses: Drawing, Architecture, Sculpture and Painting. Here he explores the different techniques to the full extent. We see both linear and industrial ornament drawings as well as historical drawings that remind us of classical Greek works or even anatomical drawings of the human skeleton.
In 1873 the painter prepares for the “State Pensioner” course in Paris. He is a student of Master Cabanel in human figure and of Yvon in drawing in rigorous perspective with application of shadows. With Yvon he focuses on the customs of ancient Rome, with the designs of the togas being made in pencil and highlighted in blood red.
The exhibition then quickly moves to Italy, during which time Silva Porto attended the Academy in Rome and visited the Vatican. This is where we see the greatest change in the artist’s works. If until then they were more cloudy, dark and sad, after this stay they acquire a special light, a direct and Mediterranean light.
Back in Paris, Silva Porto will introduce the light seized in the south to his works in the field: it is the set of studies for “Seara”, one of his masterpieces.
He returns to Portugal in 1879 and is appointed to replace the late Tomás da Anunciação at the Academy of Fine Arts in Lisbon. Dissatisfied with the triennial rhythm of the exhibitions of the Fine Arts Promoter Society, he seeks an annual independent alternative for exhibitions with his students. This is how the Grupo de Leão – predecessor of the Lisbon Artistic Guild – was created, and which was presented annually between 1981 and 1888. With an out of the ordinary work capacity for the time, Silva Porto exhibited 30/40 works in each exhibition of the Guild.
Finally, the exhibition ends with an almost invisible note of apple branches, an inverted reverse: it is the study for the painting “Apple trees in bloom”, left unfinished and also shown at this exhibition.
Interested in colour, vegetation and trees, Silva Porto is the painter of Portugal’s land. Until March 7th, at SNBA, we can get to know better the vision and the work of this artist who has walked through villages, woods, streams and rivers, capturing moments and gestures of a harmonious relationship between Man and Nature.