National Museum of Contemporary Art opens exhibition dedicated to Francis Smith

    The exhibition “Francis Smith. In Search of Lost Time”, at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, in Lisbon, opens to the public on Thursday, bringing together the painter’s modernism with Ernesto de Sousa’s contemporaneity, until late summer.

    “Francis Smith. In Search of Lost Time”, a title that refers to the universe of Marcel Proust, is the first exhibition held in the context of a background investigation into the life and work of the painter born in Lisbon, in 1881, but who emigrated to Paris, in the early years of the 20th century, where he died in 1961.

    This exhibition, which will be open to the public throughout this summer, from June 10th to October 3rd, joins “My Friend – Works and Documents from the Ernesto de Sousa Collection (1921-1988)”, another of the main events of the current program of the National Museum of Contemporary Art – Chiado Museum (MNAC), integrated in the set of events linked to the commemoration of the centenary of the artist, researcher, curator and critic, inaugurated on May 18th, and which can be seen until September 26th.

    Francisco Smith (1881-1961), who would later adopt the name Francis, was born in Portugal, descendant of an English family, and studied in Paris, where he settled in 1907. There he met other Portuguese artists such as Eduardo Viana, Emérico Nunes and Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, there he married the sculptor Yvonne Mortier and there acquired French citizenship, dedicating himself, however, to painting Lisbon, his hometown, in frames of typical neighborhoods, supported by memory and a modernist current that was yours.

    It was in the French capital that “he developed a prestigious artistic career, participating with critical and commercial success in the most important Parisian exhibition circuits of the time, becoming the Portuguese creator with the greatest presence in the French cultural panorama of the first half of the 20th century”, writes curator of the exhibition, Jorge Costa, contrasting however that, in the history of national art, Francis Smith’s painting “was successively relegated to a smaller place, accusing him of ingenuity and, in his taste for figurative register, a collage to the vision of a postcard illustrated of the Estado Novo”.

    Reduced to “an image of a painter of Portuguese nostalgia, his work presents, however, much more interesting and artistically informed aspects”, continues the curator, in the presentation text of the exhibition, published on the MNAC page on Facebook.

    “With an intimate perspective, his painting does reflect a certain emigrant sentimentality, maintaining a crystallized and nostalgic memory of a popular Portugal. However, this memory blends with the daily life of modern French life. His own nostalgia manifests the knowledge of the writing and thought of Marcel Proust, the writer who focused on the mechanisms of memory, outlining, in a sensitive memorialistic register, what we might call a ssearch for a lost cause in painting. A personal worldview, Smith is purposefully naive, seeking the purity of a child’s vision, in the awareness that each one has their own perception of time and memory”, writes Jorge Costa.

    The curator and researcher at MNAC Maria Aires Silveira, on the museum’s website, for her part, also underlines this “painting of memories of Lisbon, in serial framing of typical, expressively modernist neighbourhoods”.

    “His chronicles of Lisbon corners and popular scenes, repeatedly described and obsessively remembered, contradicting the permanent absence of his country, convey feelings of nostalgia and innocence, in images of an idyllic city that is peacefully going through a busy period of European social and political crises . In his representations of Lisbon, on the stairs, parks, gardens, there is often a male figure, an emotional memory of his father, looking for a naive scenic quality in the lyrical vision of his notes, lost in time and in a sentimental space”, writes Aires Silveira.

    “A friend of Marcel Proust, he asserts himself at the 1911 Free Exhibition, a landmark of Portuguese Modernism. Independent spirit, nostalgic for Lisbon’s neighborhood experiences, reveals French references and an intimate universe in a modernist and national language. 1930s, introduces his works ” in the Salons: Peintres Témoins de leur temps, des Indépendants, dAutomne, des Tuilleries,de la Peinture à Leay et du Dessin, des comparaisons dasnières, des Grands et les Jeunes Daujurdui”, he stresses.

    In 1963, two years after the painter’s death, Francis Smith’s Association des Amis, formed in 1962, organized a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Musée Galliéra in Paris, awarding an annual Smith Prize.

    In the exhibition “Francis Smith. In Search of Lost Time”, guarantees Jorge Costa, it is demonstrated that the bet “on the figurative register of his time reflects the social involvement with its themes, uniting the literate and popular culture and making a personal synthesis between center and periphery, or between Paris and its distant Portugal”.

    This exhibition takes place in the context of the MNAC protocol, with the Institute of History of Art, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, and the Millennium bcp Foundation, for the investigation of Portuguese painting from the 19th to 20th centuries.

    As for “My Friend – Works and Documents from the Ernesto de Sousa Collection (1921-1988)”, dedicated to “one of the most relevant personalities of contemporary Portuguese”, as the MNAC writes, it is a project organized by Isabel Alves, who is has dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of the artist’s legacy.

    The exhibition crosses documentation (correspondence, publications, projects) and works of art that were offered to Ernesto de Sousa, throughout his life, by some of the most relevant national and foreign artists, between the 1940s and 1980s.

    “This dialogue between the documentary and the work of art” allows the construction of “a multifaceted and heterogeneous itinerary of its aesthetic path and its affinities, reaffirming the collaborative character that has always guided its action”, says curator Emília Tavares.

    “Ernesto de Sousa was decisive for the internationalization of Portuguese art and artists, while maintaining a permanent update and dissemination of the international artistic panorama. The aesthetic, artistic and historical reference of his work continues to be active and current, inspiring new generations from various backgrounds, reaffirming the innovative and contemporary character of its legacy”, concludes the curator.

    The exhibition dedicated to Ernesto de Sousa brings together 124 works by 62 artists, including painting, drawing, engraving, sculpture, photography, objects and diverse documentation, organized into seven exhibition centers: “Meu Amigo”, “The 70s – Art and Revolution” , “Neorrealism – An Oppositional Aesthetics”, “Almada, a name of War”, “Fluxus – bringing art and life together”, in a reference to the multidisciplinary movement in which he was inscribed, and “Alternativa Zero, 1977″, framed by great exhibition of contemporary Portuguese art that he organized in 1977, culminating his journey in the !80s and 90s – Ser Moderno em Portugal”.

    Until September 26, the MNAC is also hosting a third temporary exhibition, “Herança”, by Ana Vidigal and Nuno Nunes-Ferreira, curated by Emília Ferreira, researcher and director of the museum.

    The exhibition takes place in the year that marks the 60th anniversary of the start of the Colonial War, and “reveals part of two personal archives, two heirlooms of two artists whose parents took part in that traumatic moment in history, which placed Portugal in an armed conflict with other countries, then their colonies”.

    The exhibition will feature a publication, produced in a partnership between the MNAC and Documenta, with essays by Emília Ferreira, the historian Irene Flunser Pimentel and the curator and researcher Raphael Fonseca.

    “Modern Gazes. The Portrait in Painting, Sculpture, Drawing (1910-1950)”, a “crossing of eyes” on the MNAC collection, and “the taste for pictorial framing”, curated by Maria de Aires Silveira, will also be patent until September 30th.

    Among the museum’s initiatives, there is also the exhibition “The MNAC at the Center of Your Life”, this time at Centro Colombo, which celebrates the institution’s 110 years dedicated to contemporary art.

    On the first floor of the shopping center in Benfica, five works from the MNAC collection are on display, such as “No Tejo, Marinha, c.”, by João Vaz, and “Surface-4”, by João Pires Vieira, covering different periods of the museum collection, from 1850 to the present day.

    In Colombo, the works can be seen until the 27th of June, at the time of the shopping centre, at a time when this space marks ten years of the initiative “A Arte Chegou Ao Colombo”.

    @ Lusa/RTP

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