Lisbon – the works of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro

Raphael Augusto Prostes Bordallo Pinheiro (1846-1905) was a much loved Lisboan artist who has attained national treasure status in Portugal for his prolific work as a ceramicist, draughtsman, watercolourist, illustrator, decorator, journalist and political caricaturist.

I first came to his work via the striking Arte Nova (Art Nouveau) ceramic tiles that he created towards the end of his career. In his azulejos, insect and animal forms abound, with green frogs and black cats being recurring motifs. On other tiles, the influence of traditional Moorish tile patterns can be seen. Please click on these galleries for the best view.

I next encountered Pinheiro through his ceramic tableware which seemed to pop up everywhere I went, from a cabbage leaf plate on a dinner table in Funchal (review forthcoming) to the amusing water jugs at Restaurante 100 Maneiras (my review here). Popularly known as ‘lettuceware’ or ‘rusticware’, it is Pinheiro’s most collectible work and many Portuguese households will boast a couple of pieces at least. It is still readily available today from retailers like John Lewis although is shouldn’t be confused with other competing lettuceware ranges like that of Dodie Thayer.

Many people attribute this style to Pinheiro but in fact he, and many other ceramacists, were inspired by 16th-century Huguenot potter Bernard Palissy, who had become fashionable again in the 19th century. These are some of Pinheiro’s less practical plates inspired by Palissyware.

These and many other interesting pieces can be seen at the museum dedicated to him, the Museu Bordalo Pinheiro at 382 Campo Grande, Lisboa.

It was at the musuem that I further discovered his work as an illustrator…

…and a satirist.

What is immediately noticable is that many of his satirical cartoons feature banquets and feasting, or food in some form or another.

He himself loved a good banquet and illustrated the menus for the dinners of many prestigious organsiations.

Food labels were another line of work.

Perhaps most importantly though, he was the creator of Zé Povinho, a cartoon character (the first in Portugal) whose name literally translates as “Joe Little People”. Originally a symbol of the Portuguese peasantry, Zé Povinho eventually became the unofficial personification of the country itself…

…an image that has endured in popular culture to the present day.

Other rooms at the museum display some larger ceramic pieces, many created at the Fábrica de Faianças das Caldas da Rainha where he was head of the artistic department. Not my favourite bit but impressive nonetheless.

Immediately over the road from the Museu Bordalo Pinheiro is the main building of the Museu de Lisboa, located in the Pimenta Palace at 245 Campo Grande. (No doubt also worth a look but the receptionist told me I’d need a few hours at least and I’d run out of time). Next to the palace is the Jardim Bordallo Pinheiro, an outdoor installation created in his honour which features oversized and slightly scary copies (by the artist Joana Vasconcelos) of many of his animal and insect creations, often placed in unusual locations.

Portuguese children learn about Pinheiro at school so I think the garden is primarily meant as a place to entertain kids, but it’s good fun for everyone, and it’s free. Along the adjoining park, with it’s cafe by the fountains and wandering peacocks, this is a great place for a rest after lots of walking on a hot sunny day.

Here are a couple of buildings around Lisbon where you can see Pinheiro’s work in situ. These panels are on the exterior of Tabaceria Monaco located at 21 Praça Dom Pedro IV. If you’re on a PC, click on the gallery to best appreciate the pics.

The original designs can be seen at the museum.

Inside I understand there are beautiful ceiling paintings by António Ramalho but there are notices up saying ‘no photos’ and I was too embarassed to take a sneaky look inside without buying something.

Another lovely Arte Nova interior can be viewed at Panificação Mecânica, 209 Rua Silva Carvalho in Campo de Ourique where the tiles are by Pinheiro. The tile motifs focus on wheat, a reference to the bread-making activities of this famous bakery.

They let you take photos if you ask politely. Again, click on the images for the best viewing experience.

So what’s not to like in an artist with incredible talent, a great sense of humour with a social conscience and an immense love of food?!?

For all these reasons, Raphael Pinheiro is one of my newest heroes.

Further reading here. See the previous post to see where he lived.

More ceramics next!

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