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0137 Mariana Pinto dos Santos, On Being Modern: Possibilities of Resistance through Primitivism and Ingenuousness in Ernesto de Sousa and Almada Negreiros

RIHA Journal 0137 | 15 July 2016

On Being Modern: Possibilities of Resistance through Primitivism and Ingenuousness in Ernesto de Sousa and Almada Negreiros1

Mariana Pinto dos Santos

Instituto de História da Arte, FCSH-Universidade Nova de Lisboa


This paper aims to contrast the particular uses of the modern categories of ingenuousness and primitivism both in José de Almada Negreiros and Ernesto de Sousa within their broader presence in twentieth century art. In so doing it seeks to contextualize multiple ways of understanding modernity and its legitimation through discursive practices. Ernesto de Sousa reinterpreted an idea of modernity that followed up on Almada Negreiros' modern experience. The concept of "voluntary ingenuousness" was developed by Almada after the 1920s, but it had its roots in the futurist proposals he embraced in the first decades of the twentieth century. Primitivism and ingenuousness were the fundamental terms for Almada Negreiros and Ernesto de Sousa through which they reinvented themselves as well as modernity and forged liberty within a dictatorship regime.


[1] Portugal lived under an extreme right-wing dictatorship from 1926 to 25 April 1974, which until 1968 was perpetrated by António de Oliveira Salazar (1889-1970) and subsequently by his successor, Marcelo Caetano (1906-1980). An enduring cultural movement of resistance in Portugal was formed in the late 1930s. It was based on the interpretation of the soviet directions for realism formulated at the I. Soviet Writers Congress in 1934. In several cases this interpretation was a softer, distorted, and fortunately misunderstood, version of the former, called neo-realismo (neo-realism). It was so called firstly in 19382 to avoid censorship from the fascist regime, which the words "soviet realism" or "socialist realism" would inevitably provoke. The movement was akin to other realisms manifesting throughout Europe. It had different tendencies inside it: either more orthodox or more heterodox views on art. But all tendencies understood art as politics and believed that ideology and political conscience could be transmitted through art and literature; that is, they shared the conviction that political action could be achieved through art. Neo-realism searched for expressing the oppression and poverty of peasants and fishermen, promoting trips to watch and experience the labour conditions of the lower classes, believing that art should express their misery, but mostly through the classical artistic languages of literature, painting and sculpture.

[2] In 1946, one of the figures of the neo-realist anti-regime cultural milieu, Ernesto de Sousa (1921-1988), organized an exhibition to compare African art with modern art: the Black Art Week at Escola Superior Colonial in Lisbon. It was produced with the support of the then director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Diogo de Macedo (1889-1959), and of José de Almada Negreiros (1893-1970), pioneer of Portuguese modernism. Much later, in 1984, in an experimental, post-conceptual and post-revolutionary context, the same Ernesto de Sousa showed for the first time the mixed-media experimental work Almada, Um Nome de Guerra (Almada, a War Name), which included footage of Almada Negreiros shot in 1969 shortly before his death.

[3] The Black Art Week in 1946 was a modest exhibition, but nonetheless important, for it was the first time anything of the kind had been done in Portugal. It had African sculptures from the Geography Society of Lisbon collection. The sculptures originated from Benin, an African country whose port was controlled by the Portuguese until 1892 for slave trade purposes. It also displayed painted reproductions of paintings by Picasso and Matisse as well as originals by Amedeo Modigliani and the Portuguese painter Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso (1887-1918), and a drawing by Almada Negreiros himself.3

[4] The mixed-media work called Almada, a War Name (Fig. 1), which Ernesto de Sousa started in 1969 but only exhibited in 1983/4, was shown in multiple screenings: one with filmed sequences, and two others with slides. It featured footage of the 76-year-old Almada and footage of women fish-sellers, varinas, text slides with words written and spoken by Almada Negreiros, and also footage of previous mixed-media works and events by Ernesto de Sousa himself.4 De Sousa understood mixed-media as an artistic performance and revolutionary kind of art, in which the distinction between music, poetry, cinema, painting, etc. did not make sense. The experimental linking of different means of expression was not intended to illustrate each other, but to activate a new kind of expression that was multiple and complex and that demanded attention but also action and choices from the public. Chance was also something to take into account and embrace in these performances.5

1 Ernesto de Sousa, film stills from Almada, Um Nome de Guerra (Almada, a War Name), 1969-1983, and photograph of the music recording for the film (José Ernesto de Sousa and Jorge Peixinho in the middle). By courtesy of Ernesto de Sousa Estate, available at

Changing neo-realism through cinema, photography, experimental music, theatre, and folk culture

[5] Between the two events mentioned above, Ernesto de Sousa went through some changes which can be understood as a permanent search for an art that could translate a revolutionary need. Although he always nourished an interest in painting, from the outset Ernesto de Sousa sought new forms of artistic communication with the public because he sensed the inadequacy of the classical artistic languages for achieving the educational, aesthetic and political mobilization of those segments of the society which were illiterate, semiliterate or had little education. He was interested in cinema and photography (he was an art critic, a movie director, a promoter of film societies as well as director of a cinema magazine called Imagem and a technical photography magazine called Plano Focal).

[6] Also, along with many of the neo-realists, he was interested in Portuguese folk art (arte popular). Ernesto de Sousa's approach to folk art intended to appropriate its creative, naïve and uncontrolled elements to find a universal language for art. From the late fifties, Ernesto closely read one particular author who he found could sustain this point of view. It was Bertolt Brecht. As an important figure of realism, he suggested that one should use folk techniques and strategies to provoke the spectator in order to question him directly and to include him in the theatrical performance. Brecht was particularly consonant with Ernesto de Sousa's own ideas. De Sousa directed two plays in Porto's Experimental Theatre in 1966 at the precise moment that he had been particularly struck by his readings of Bertolt Brecht, especially by Brecht’s ideas about the "distancing effect" or "strangeness effect".6 These plays were the ground for putting into practice his first performative and experimental ideas. It was then that he first met and collaborated with the contemporary Portuguese composer Jorge Peixinho (1940-1995) who had studied in Italy with Luigi Nono and later with Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Gottfried Michael Koenig.

[7] In the 1960s, Ernesto encountered one particular folk artist on the northern coast of Portugal (Esposende), Franklin Vilas-Boas Neto (1919-1968). Franklin was regarded by his family of artisans as unfit to work as a stonemason because he failed to adapt to the rigid formulae of artisanal production. Franklin's infidelity to the folk canon of representation was manifested in his sculptural production which he created simply for pleasure since he earned his living as a shoemaker. From roots which he found on the beach or dried tree trunks he extracted strange beings, inspired by their more or less twisted branch forms, whether intact or covered with holes. Wood was his chosen material, because he found animals or fantastic creatures already embedded in its structure and monsters dwelling therein.

[8] Ernesto de Sousa decided to maintain an exclusive agreement with Franklin for almost one year (1964), paying him a small retainer to produce works only for him. This retainer allowed Franklin to earn a living from his art over this period of time, thus postponing a process of acculturation that Ernesto believed was inevitable and which he suspected would lead Franklin to adapt his work to the expectations of potential buyers. However, Ernesto de Sousa did not try to maintain Franklin in a state of innocence. Instead, he aimed at finding through Franklin a path of creative liberation, a path for art that was truly related to the aesthetic and political goals espoused by him from the outset of his career. He writes: "Without any sense of pity we must foresee Folk Art's end: what we should desire is that it persists until it is possible to recover it in other cultural terms."7 He wanted it to last long enough to learn from it and so to reinvent art. Ernesto de Sousa‘s experiments in theatre were synchronous with his attention to, and learning from, the way Franklin expressed his creativity through what he found in nature. Both these experiences would shed light on the path his own artistic ideas could take. His interest in folk art had to do with a wider and universal reflection about the relations between art and the public, art and politics.

[9] While studying popular art,8 in 1966 or 1967, Ernesto de Sousa had his first contact with Fluxus artists such as George Maciunas (1931-1978) and George Brecht (1926-2008), or Ben Vautier (b. 1935) and Robert Filliou (1928-1987), amongst others, through some mail art. He also saw experimental movies in London in 1968.9 By then, Jorge Peixinho had already presented two happenings in Portugal10 and Ernesto, being an art teacher since 1967,11 was himself experimenting with events, happenings and experimental filmmaking. He eventually rejected cinema as a revolutionary and meaningful art form, writing for instance that "cinema makes the spectator a passive one", it does not promote action.12

[10] When he met Almada Negreiros again, more than twenty years after their first encounter, he had a different way of seeing him. Almada was now someone with whom Ernesto could identify, someone who, like himself, was a multi-tasker, not satisfied with just one way of expressing himself, and someone who was very aware of the communication implications of his performative relationship with an audience. He had been a dancer, choreographer, poet, novelist, painter, performer, playwright, actor. Ernesto associated this with his own non-specialist experience and current ideas of art-as-mixed-media, and also with a new concept he borrowed from Italian graphic designer Bruno Munari: "operador estético" ("aesthetic operator").13 No longer should the word "artist" be used by those who wanted a truly new art for a new society, it should be replaced by the designation "aesthetic operator": everything made, even eating or meeting at a party – brief, life itself – could count as art. "Almada Negreiros was necessary to me",14 writes Ernesto de Sousa, and also "I couldn't have chosen a random past, I had to choose Almada": Ernesto de Sousa made Almada significant, and he made himself significant by appropriating Almada. He was quite aware, once again as he had been with Franklin, that tradition was not something that was just standing there, remaining pure and untouched, but rather something that could be invented – to paraphrase the famous book edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger15 –, recreated, reused. So he chose and created his own tradition, actually stating that "the avant-garde work should manipulate tradition".16

2 Ernesto de Sousa’s 1977 intervention on an image from his 1969 multimedia show Nós não estamos algures (location: Clube 1º Acto, Algés), holding a card with words from a conference/ poem by Almada Negreiros from which he also took the title of the show (A Invenção do Dia Claro, 1921). Postcard printed in 1977. By courtesy of Ernesto de Sousa Estate

[11] That manipulation had worked in different modernist contexts, both in a revolutionary way and in a reactionary way, as this paper tries briefly to point out. The British philosopher Peter Osborne has written that "[…] by producing the old as remorselessly as it produces the new, and in equal measure, [modernity] provokes forms of traditionalism the temporal logic of which is quite different from that of tradition as conventionally received. Both traditionalism and reaction are distinctively modern forms."17

"Ingenuidade voluntária" (voluntary ingenuousness)

[12] A particularly important concept for Ernesto de Sousa, which he found in Almada Negreiros, was that of "voluntary ingenuousness", a deliberately naïve attitude towards the world. Ingenuousness was for Almada Negreiros the freedom of embracing the world without prejudices, of imagining and creating without restraints. He comments on the Latin etymology of the word ingenuus, remarking that in ancient Roman law it meant "to be born free",18 relating that freedom to the capacity of admiration – a word he also analysesetymologically: admiraremeaning "to look outside oneself", much further than the object one admires.19

[13] Ernesto related this to what he had seen in Franklin (in whom he saw an "involuntary ingenuousness"), but also with the experimental art forms he was engaged in and their commitment to the intertwining of life and art. "Voluntary ingenuousness" helped to create a theoretical framing for appropriating, recycling, recreating and presenting his own artistic interventions with whatever he could absorb from the world, using it with voluntary naïveté, as if it was new raw material.

[14] But how had the "voluntary ingenuousness" of Almada Negreiros been forged? Almada Negreiros is one of the three artists who are identified with the Portuguese avant-garde from the early twentieth century, also called first modernism, together with Santa-Rita Pintor and Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso. He was also part of the Orpheu group, the 1915 magazine published in association with Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) and Mário de Sá-Carneiro (1890-1916), with the collaborations of José Pacheko (885-1934), Ângelo de Lima (1872-1921), Raul Leal (1886-1964), and Guilherme de Santa-Rita Pintor (1889-1918), amongst others. Almada Negreiros lived through the entire Portuguese twentieth century and had a major artistic impact in its first decades. He created Portuguese futurism and promoted it through performances and persuasive manifestos, preserving in later works that performative oral character that was also present in international Dada and Futurism and would later be recovered by the international neo-avantgarde to its own purposes. In 1917, he presented the Futuristic Conference reading his Futurist Ultimatum in a clownish worker's suit (Ernesto could have said that it was the costume of an "aesthetic operator" from the beginning of the century). The Ultimatum was inspired by Marinetti's manifesto defending war as maximum hygiene, proposing the destruction of the past, of the museums, etc. Later he told a story (the veracity of it being difficult do determine) about how he and his futurist friends shaved off all their body hair in front of the primitive Portuguese painting Ecce Homo in the National Art Museum.20

[15] All those manifestations are clear symptoms of the zero degree sought by futurism in the early twentieth century in order to operate a rebirth in art consonant with modern technology and velocity. But futurism in Almada Negreiros was from the very beginning largely imbued with playfulness and youthful joy rather than connected to technology. Almada Negreiros produced hardly any paintings in these first years (though he did produce some of the most powerful manifestos, poems and short stories ever heard or read, which are themselves very pictorial in their writing). Rather, he worked in a private realm, combining word and image, entertaining a few girls from the aristocracy for whom he wrote ballet pieces, choreographing, dancing and designing costumes (struck as he was by the impression of the Ballets Russes, which performed in Lisbon in 1917) (Fig. 3).

3 (left): Almada Negreiros, The Devil, 1918. Costume design for the ballet A Princesa dos Sapatos de Ferro (National Theatre of S. Carlos, Lisbon; choreographer: A. Negreiros, music: Ruy Coelho, scenography: José Pacheko). © Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon – Modern Collection. (Right): Photograph of Almada Negreiros performing in the costume of the Devil, published in Ilustração Portuguesa, 13 May 1918

[16] One example of such work is a set of cards dated 1918 (Fig. 4), titled N.C. 5, the initials for "Our Club 5" – five being the number of members, four girls plus Almada, each given one colour and one nickname ("Zu" was Almada Negreiros, with the colour green) with which he made several imaginative colour combinations by breaking the syllables and recombining them.

4 Almada Negreiros, N.C. 5 – Invention Vert, 1918 (three out of a total of seven cards). © Almada Negreiros family estate, National Library of Portugal, Lisbon

[17] This was in fact a very personal, intuitive and, above all, free interpretation of the simultaneous colour contrasts of his friends Robert (1885-1941) and Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979), who had stayed in Portugal in 1915 and 1916 and with whom he corresponded and planned international exhibitions (with Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso) that never took place. His idea of futurism combined both the ideas of international futurism and this particular and circumscribed interpretation of the Delaunays' orphism which was indistinctly written and plastic, and also visually and bodily performative through dance and costume designing (he writes to Sonia Delaunay about producing with her "ballets simultanéistes").21 In his narratives and self-portraits he also focuses on his own eyes, which were in fact abnormally big, calling them "lighthouses" to embrace the world, or saying they were giant eyes in a small boy,22 referring to his own vision as an interface with which to devour the whole world. From the forties on, he began to pursue an essential language in painting, searching for an ancient geometrical vocabulary through which he sought to obtain an initial, primitive and, in his understanding, universal art form. That is why his last work was named Começar, To Begin (1968/9): because for him all art emerged from that geometrical universal language (Fig. 5).

5 José de Almada Negreiros working on To Begin (Começar), 1968/1969. Carved and painted wall, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. Photograph by courtesy of Almada Negreiros family estate, National Library of Portugal, Lisbon

Resisting the regime: Almada Negreiros' Sudoeste magazine

[18] Almada Negreiros died in 1970 (while two other relevant artists from early Portuguese modernism, Santa-Rita and Amadeo, were both killed in 1918 by the influenza pandemic known as "Spanish flu"), so it was he who lived the longest (another modernist painter, Eduardo Viana, had also outlived his companions until 1967, but had become more discrete) and who faced some important political and social changes both in art and politics, both locally and in other European countries. In the 1930s, Almada Negreiros produced several conferences and written interventions that carry an implicit critique of the political regimes emerging in Europe. In 1935, he launched a magazine called Sudoeste as a platform for that critique.

[19] Sudoeste was conceived from a geographical point of view. Almada Negreiros presented it separating the word Sudoeste (Southwest) into its components of South and West, underlining the extreme geographical location of Portugal in Europe: Extreme South and Extreme West – almost out of Europe.23 The magazine operated as a political statement from the southwestern corner of Europe, trying to contradict the isolating tendencies of Portugal. This was in the aftermath of Almada's five-year stay in Madrid and it shows an effort to identify Portuguese modern art and artists as a formative part of Europe. Therefore, it was a deliberate effort to go beyond his peripheral situation by owning and asserting it vigorously.

[20] The first two numbers of Sudoeste were called Almada Negreiros' Notebooks and they were written exclusively by Almada Negreiros. In the third and last issue, the magazine became a proper magazine, open to collaborations from others. By the second issue, Almada Negreiros had announced that the third number would no longer be a personal notebook, but a collaboration of several authors, those who had created the Orpheu magazine in 1915 (of which only two issues were published; there was a third one planned whose proofs have survived) and those who were still producing the Presença magazine (which was published between 1927 and 1940).24 Actually, Almada Negreiros was trying to recover the abandoned project of Orpheu, bringing together its remaining members with those who were responsible for the modernist heritage in the most coherent, lasting, albeit quite different project, the (mostly) literary Presença project.

[21] Fernando Pessoa, the former co-editor of Orpheu, was responsible for the editorial of issue 3 of Sudoeste, thus showing his close collaboration with Almada Negreiros in bringing together authors from the extinct Orpheu, twenty years after it first appeared. He concluded the editorial with the sentence: "Orpheu is finished. Orpheu continues."25 In the second part of the third issue, João Gaspar Simões (1903-1987) from the Presença magazine pointed out the difference in tone, remarking that if Pessoa refered to the collaborators in Orpheu as "We, the ones from Orpheu", meaning that Orpheu's importance was due to the individuals who collaborated in it without ever existing as a literary or artistic project, then he could speak of his own magazine and its collaborators as "We, Presença", because it was a movement that existed beyond the individuals who made it.26

[22] Although Almada Negreiros had the intention of matching these two magazines, the table of contents for an unpublished fourth number of Sudoeste reveals that it could have developed into a broader project, because he planned to publish an article by António Pedro (later connected with surrealism), as well as an absurd theatrical play by Branquinho da Fonseca or a poem by the Brazilian poet Cecília Meireles.27

[23] Presença was a project that insisted on an autonomous, individualistic and non-political realm for art, believing that that was the way to assure artistic freedom. Being non-political was a way to keep away from the regime's modernism and its nationalistic politicization, and also a way to create a distance from António Ferro (1895-1956), who had been associated with early modernism and the Orpheu magazine, but who, as a minister for propaganda (1933-1949), capitalized on modernism for the aestheticization of the dictatorship.28

[24] Nevertheless, as the texts in the first two issues of Sudoeste show, Almada Negreiros was not aiming for neutrality. He was thinking differently. These are in fact extremely political texts, written under a dictatorship and censorship – a factor that we must take into account, because there was always that shadow over one's shoulder preventing total clarity in one's words. In issue 1, in a text entitled "Art and Politics", he writes: "Art and politics are counterparts of each other." By this he seems to mean that they are expressions of humanity, but also to affirm that, although one might intervene individually in society, by no means should politics determine art, or art determine politics.29

[25] In another text published in Sudoeste‘s issue 1, entitled "Prometheus, Spiritual Essay on Europe",30 he mentions a survey throughout Europe which had elected Prometheus the European hero. I have not been able to confirm the veracity of this survey, perhaps it never occurred, however it is relevant that Almada Negreiros used this Greek character as a metaphor. For him, the result of the survey denotes the unanimity of the European spirit, and that Prometheus is a particular character from Greek tragedy in which the common man feels represented. He is the particular who expresses the general – this idea is actually both a political and an artistic project for Almada Negreiros and it is for him the only direction for both art and politics, or in any case for human life.31 He also affirms that the Prometheus myth expresses the human tragedy: It is not enough to steal the fire from the gods if you cannot share its secret with others. It is only when the individual expresses himself in the collective that he fulfils himself and presents himself as a social being. "Man is not one man. Man is all and every one of us!", he writes.32 This is quite different from the individualistic, separate, autonomous artistic realm that the Presença project defended.

[26] In this same text about Prometheus, he divides the north and the south of Europe as well as eastern and western Europe. And, in a subtle and not so clear wording, he leaves implicit the inflexibility of northern Europe in relation to southern Europe, and also the imbalance that the then current revolutions (communism in Russia, fascism in Italy and the rise of Hitler in Germany) provoked in a desired unanimous Europe. He also distinguishes between humanity and multitude, seeing in the latter a dilution of the individual and not the desired balance between universality and individuality. For Almada Negreiros, individual autonomy and freedom were political conditions for living and expressing oneself in society.

[27] It is also important to mention the way he refers to nationality and family: he explains they are "exclusively administrative procedures",33 of people living underneath the same roof or within the same territory, which do not offer the realm for the individual and the universal to express themselves. This is extremely significant when we think of the three major soundbites of the dictatorship of Salazar to promote nationalism and a proud closing of the country to the outside: "God, Fatherland and Family", the three pillars on which Portugal should stand. In the final text of issue 1, he nevertheless tries to explain the political convulsions in Europe in a hopeful tone: "Fascism, communism, hitlerism, or any other nationalism although they apparently look like different politics are nothing but particular European cases." They have blinded themselves and closed themselves to the outside, but that can be a fruitful stage, and once particular cases resolve themselves, then Europe can be unanimous again.34

[28] The Portuguese scholar Gustavo Rubim35 has already analysed the way Almada Negreiros always inscribes himself and Portugal on the map in a totally Eurocentric view which is oblivious of other continents (including the colonies), or submits them to a supposed European superiority. He is not, though, nationalistic. In fact, as mentioned before, and Gustavo Rubim refers to it too, Almada Negreiros believed nationalism was political blindness. Therefore, Almada Negreiros was a critical observer of European politics with a particular view unidentifiable, as far as I know, with any political movement, and he would never defend a regime in which individual expression would submit to collective determinations, nor vice-versa. He was not a fascist, he was not apologetic of the Portuguese dictatorship, he was not a supporter of Salazar. Very recently, Almada Negreiros's political doubts were confirmed in a contemporary magazine called Suroeste (as a homage to the 1935 Sudoeste magazine) in an article that examines a letter received by Almada Negreiros from a friend who responds to his worries about the Spanish Civil War.36 Many of Almada Negreiros’ friends from Madrid were involved in the Spanish Civil War, either in anarchist groups like the painter Juan Manuel Díaz Caneja (1905-1988), or in the National Movement of Franco, like Ernesto Giménez Caballero (1899-1988), editor of La Gaceta Literaria. Almada Negreiros’ political considerations were probably affected by the years working and living in Madrid and also by the deflagration of the Spanish Civil War, but also by the Portuguese politics he had seen changing to an authoritarian government that had just been firmly institutionalized.

[29] In the second issue of Sudoeste, Almada Negreiros criticizes the visit to Portugal of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944) in 1932, someone he thought had become an academic of fascism, who had thus betrayed futurism. He writes that the artist, the creator, is the one who can be "both individual and social, and a result both of his own merit and of the society in which he lives"; "outside that", he writes, "there are only systems and programmes that serve nothing but authority and never serve creation".37

[30] Finally, the editorial in that same issue, "Views from the Southwest", is where Almada Negreiros states the strongest position against the regime's cultural politics. Almada Negreiros says in this editorial that he knows two countries named Portugal: one of them belongs to the Portuguese people, the other is the place for portuguesadas [this is rather difficult to translate, but it is a pejorative corruption of the word Portuguese, something that pretends to be Portuguese but, in fact, is a fabricated and sweetened picturesque image for propaganda purposes]. "There is" – he writes – "no greater enemy to the Portuguese than portuguesadas." He then exemplifies this with a list of the picturesque use of traditional and local people and habits,38 which was exactly what the SPN (National Propaganda Bureau) was doing and would do in the following years.

The regime's modernism

[31] In 1933, Salazar created the SPN (National Propaganda Bureau). In 1944, the National Propaganda Bureau changed its name to SNI (National Bureau of Information) and incorporated within it the censorship services. This change in name is meaningful because the first name illustrates perfectly the intentions of its director, António Ferro. It is important to underline that in the SPN designation it was not the Bureau that was classified as national, it was the Propaganda. Ferro was invited by António Salazar to create this Bureau after he was interviewed by him for a series published during 1932 in the newspaper Diário de Notícias.

[32] Salazar, previously appointed as Minister of Finance (in 1928) with the job of solving the national debt, had become Prime Minister in 1932 and in 1933, when there was a ratification in the Constitution establishing the authoritarian single-party regime called Estado Novo (New State) under the command of Salazar.39 In the 1932 interviews, Salazar and Ferro were in complete agreement about the need for propaganda animation and staging.40 And also Salazar stated something really significant:

There can only be absolute authority. Absolute liberty cannot exist. When you try to connect the concept of liberty to the concept of progress there is a serious mistake. Liberty decreases as man progresses, as he civilizes. […] Let's put liberty in the hands of authority because only authority can administrate it […] and defend it.41

[33] The National Propaganda Bureau was responsible for a large number of cultural and political measures based on national folk culture in order to create an image of Portugal destined for foreign eyes and also for the national middle and upper classes.42 These measures consisted largely of recreating and dislocating folk culture for elite urban consumption. At the same time, the National Propaganda Bureau had a number of measures actually conceived for the lower classes, with free shows or concerts, the creation of a People's Theatre and a Moving Cinema, which were meant to indoctrinate the people and to avoid politics as a topic of discussion or action. Meanwhile, the arts and literature were controlled by creating literary and art prizes and also by the fact that there was no real art market in Portugal and artists either had other kinds of work to live on, or they depended on working illustrating book covers and magazines, or on some small private commissions, or on larger, state-funded commissions. António Ferro was appropriating modernism, mixing it up with tradition to make internal propaganda of nationalistic values. It had the goal of generating nationalist values amongst the middle classes.43

[34] The same has been noticed by Carlos Bártolo, who writes that graphic design, as well as exhibitions montage, or the use of photography and billboards were aimed at "Portuguese – and foreign – literate classes, not the common illiterate peasant; to people used to the cosmopolitan terraces of Lisbon, Paris or New York, and not to someone that didn't know what was outside his village limits, and where the modest teacher's classroom was the most enlightened place on earth."44 Magazines like Notícias Ilustrado, Panorama (where Ferro promoted the pedagogical and manipulative Good Taste Campaign in 1941), or albums like Portugal 1934, or the Portuguese pavilion information display at the 1937 Paris World Exhibition, were meant for middle class consumption, both national and international.45 At the same time, the indoctrination of the people started precisely in the classroom, where modern graphic design – but a rather sober and well behaved one when compared with that found in the magazines and international exhibitions – was put to use in posters with "Salazar's Lessons" from 1938. These "Lessons" summed up Salazar's ideological purpose expressed in several discourses and interviews in previous years, combining the praise of modern technological progress46 with the conservative "education trilogy": "God, Fatherland and Family", in that order of importance, which assigned women their place in the home and kitchen, taking care of children, while men were expected to provide economic sustenance for the family in a fabricated traditional interior.47 This meant that the indoctrination of the people comprised both praise for progress and praise for a domesticated and gentle people that kept its place, and had the function of preserving and exhibiting national identity. It is against this, I believe, that Almada Negreiros writes in Sudoeste magazine, as I explained earlier.

[35] The simultaneous progressivist and conservative modernity has also been analysed by Luís Trindade. He has shown that in the Portuguese propaganda of the New State the ways of mediation on which ideological domination relied in order to produce a political unconscious, made use of the most advanced technological instruments.48 Those image fabrication instruments recreated the country whilst hiding social inequality, or making it natural, acceptable, picturesque, poetic, lyrical and promoting a national identity that sustained political consensus.49

[36] But one might add that they were also instruments for recreating modernism and its protagonists. In effect, António Ferro reclaimed for himself a "third of the history of modernism", saying that it was through him that "novelty" had triumphed: "All of that youth in the newspapers, on the book covers, in the magazines' graphic design, in painting, on the billboards, in light writing for theatre – they are a product of our work, of our influx, of our respiration."50 Ferro had indeed proposed to make use of "a bunch of lads, full of talent and vigour that wait, anxiously, to be useful to their Country!",51 to serve what he proposed to be the "Policy of Spirit":52 Clearly, this was an aestheticization of politics aiming to produce identity values for the Portuguese, as well as to project the country's image outside. For that he meant to take advantage of the local primitivisms that interested artists from the first quarter of the century (in perfect synchrony with the general state of the arts internationally), domesticating them to produce a modern, yet traditional and docile Portuguese art. And resulting in staging tradition and staging modernity.53

[37] This explains two other moments of critique by Almada Negreiros, one still in Sudoeste, in which he accuses the mediators between State and artists of trying to compete with the artists – and he can only be referring to António Ferro –, and another when he writes that Ferro has appropriated modernism for his own benefit and has distorted the achievements of modernist artists.54 Almada Negreiros was reacting to declarations António Ferro had made in the press, in which he proclaimed that his Policy of the Spirit had done a great deal for modern art and for the "workers of the spirit" – a designation which loudly resonated with Stalin's "soul engineers", and, in fact, is not that distant in its intentions from the Soviet Union's instrumental use of art and artists –, but that the artists had not responded with the expected recognition.55 In his text, Almada Negreiros proclaims the misunderstanding between politicians and art, and that artists are constrained to work for official art: "So far as recognition, the State shouldn't recognize the word recognition. There is nothing but service in the State. It is service that we, artists, produce and it is with service that the State repays us. […] Our service as artists is not official, it is to make Art; […]." Almada Negreiros goes on, defending the autonomy of art in respect of the State and accusing Ferro – in a tone resembling the famous J'accuse by Émile Zola,56 something which had to be deliberately used to defy power – of "abusively presenting himself as director of the modern Portuguese movement", of taking credit and advantage from it, and abusively using it for political (propaganda) purposes, as well as promoting himself for something he did not do or knew how to make: art.57

Primitivism and modernity

[38] Mapping Almada Negreiros' voluntary ingenuousness from futurism to his geometrical studies within painting, and identifying the way it acted as a personal resistance, has the purpose of understanding Almada Negreiros' own attitude towards modernity including the political stances that are inevitably part of it. Almada Negreiros forged his own idea of being modern within adverse circumstances which, nevertheless, did not keep him from artistic practice or from searching in that practice for the way to maintain his freedom.

[39] Ernesto de Sousa was unaware of some of Almada Negreiros' writings that I have mentioned, but what he knew was enough to recognize the use and value of such an attitude towards art. By learning from Almada Negreiros and relating his voluntary ingenuousness with what he had seen in folk art, with his readings of Bertolt Brecht and his own artistic experience in cinema and his political commitment as a neo-realist, Ernesto de Sousa was actually able to keep an openness about any possible means of creative expression. This is the reason for his embracing the revolutionary idea that everything has the susceptibility of being art, therefore everyone can do it. The paraphrasing of the famous Goldoni line, "everything has the susceptibility of being theatre" (from La Locandiera, 1751) is not random, for the performative implications of his experimental practices, the mixed media which combined experimental contemporary music, experimental cinema, slide projection and a collage of different quotes, as was the one he made with Almada Negreiros, Almada, a War Name (Fig. 1), meant that the theatrical uses of the body were absolutely necessary for rejecting conventional art practice and restructuring it endlessly in different ways. The path he trod was after all in dialogue with the other experimental artistic practices going on in the early 1970s with which he felt in perfect consonance.58

[40] Ernesto de Sousa's search for new languages for art in folk culture, experimental art and in Almada Negreiros has affinities with the modern quest for the myth of returning to origin that shaped, albeit in different ways, various practices and theories in twentieth century art. Something Hal Foster has diagnosed as the twentieth century "realist assumption" and "primitivist fantasy",59 the former relating to the belief that the other (proletarian, peasant, post-colonial) exists in reality or truth, not in ideology, and therefore somewhat in purity, "because he is socially repressed, politically transformative, and/or materially productive".60 The latter being the belief that "the other, usually assumed to be of colour, has special access to primary psychic and social processes from which the white subject is somehow blocked".61 Although it is a pertinent diagnosis, it is also a broad generalization, which, like all generalizations, tends not to consider the variety of relations of multiple modernisms to multiple primitivisms.

[41] Patricia Leighten and Mark Antliff have made an important analysis of the concept of the primitive, relating it with conceptions of time/ space, and issues of gender, race and class, emphasizing its political character when used either admiringly or pejoratively. The roots of both positive and negative understandings of the primitive have a common ground that prevails throughout twentieth century art, and it is that ground that makes artists try to search, for instance (to exemplify with the mentioned opposition time/ space) for the time and space conceptions that allow them to evade "civilization".62

[42] T. J. Clark writes in his most recent book that retrogression is the most persistent note in the twentieth century (he specifies between 1905 and 1956). He also calls it "primitivism, nostalgia, regressiveness, cult of purity, creation of private worlds". He asks: "What is modern art but a long refusal, a long avoidance of catastrophe, a set of spells against an intolerable present?"63 Summing up, he writes that retrogression was an understandable reaction to the horrors of the twentieth century, and it was a way, indeed, of disbelief and rejection of the idea of modern progress, seen in its darkest consequences. Actually, both Almada Negreiros and Ernesto de Sousa could be seen as confirming this view: they both lived under a dictatorship, Almada Negreiros witnessed the consequences of two world wars (although he defended the first one as an aesthetic experience), and was devastated by the Spanish Civil War (he had lived in Madrid just before the war started) and was rather isolated as an artist after 1935. Ernesto de Sousa lived through the Second World War as a young adult, and also through the colonial war; he was arrested and tortured by the political police more than once. He compares the concept of "aesthetic operator" with the way ancient cathedrals were built, anonymously and collectively, and in a 1972 interview justifying his options for using anti-art to achieve revolution, he says: "People with almost no money struggle to survive; people with some money want to buy refrigerators; people with a lot of money want to buy works of art. It's a suffocating panorama."64 And if we recall Salazar's words saying that liberty diminishes as civilization progresses, that is something to take into account in the reflection about the choice for a voluntary ingenuousness, no longer necessarily copying or illustrating or directly relating to a folk culture meanwhile distorted into folklorism65 by the regime's propaganda machine. Of course, this worked both ways, because progressism became the bait to justify authority and to maintain the political and social status quo within conservative reactionary values painted with a modern varnish.

[43] Reinventing an artistic naïve language for the arts, however different it may have been in both artists, was a way of resisting with one's creative individuality within an oppressive context. Almada Negreiros worked towards a deeper and hermetic mathematical and geometrical abstraction, which was perhaps a way of rejecting manipulation and domestication by the regime's cultural politics and maintaining the freedom that can always be achieved inside one's head. For Ernesto de Sousa, it was not so much the work of Almada Negreiros, but his attitude which was important to recover with value of use:66 not only a performative, provocative avant-garde attitude, but also the voluntary naïve attitude towards the world. For Ernesto de Sousa, the possibility of beginning over and over again and of always refreshing one's views, as incited by the title of Almada Negreiros's last work for the Gulbenkian Foundation, To Begin (1968/1969, Fig. 5), promoted a revolutionary liberty of action.

[44] "Modernity", says Jonathan Crary in his latest, disturbing and essential book, "contrary to its popular connotations, is not the world in a sweepingly transformed state. Rather, it is the hybrid and dissonant experience of living intermittently within modernized spaces and speeds, and yet simultaneously inhabiting the remnants of pre-capitalist life-worlds, whether social or natural."67

In conclusion

[45] We can relate the Ernesto de Sousa case and the Almada Negreiros case and the way in which they intersect by a deliberate appropriation of the latter by the former, to the more general views on modernity, avant-garde and primitivism, which were present throughout the twentieth century, both within the official art of political regimes and within an aesthetic attitude of resistance, repulsion of modern times, and revolt. We can also see that a literary nationalist imaginary – I should add an artistic one as well – was established which allowed a smooth acceptance of Salazar and of the constructed image that António Ferro forged for the country, since its politics corresponded to a common sense, a political consensus established within Portuguese society at the moment that the regime institutionalized itself. As Luís Trindade puts it: "The New State did not create consensus. It managed them […]."68 And that management implied consolidating the consensus through extremely modern instruments, through mass media suitable for ideological manipulation69 like newspapers, magazines, photography, cinema, radio, international exhibitions, national contests, architecture programmes, dance and theatrical performances and painting exhibitions and prizes.

[46] But one can also see that the way all kinds of information is received and absorbed and reinvented in Almada Negreiros and Ernesto de Sousa, produces singular artistic experiences and creations. This singularity resists being part of a larger paradigm. It does not eliminate the paradigm, but rather exists in a dialectical tension with it, showing that paradigms are always discursive constructions, which are useful thinking tools, but that they nonetheless tend to eliminate nuances and flatten differences. A closer look at practices in their contexts threatens to shatter the idea of a uniform paradigm. And it is in the tension between singularity and plurality that art history's writing practice about modernisms should lie.

Local Editor

Begoña Farré Torras, Instituto de História da Arte, FCSH-Universidade Nova de Lisboa


Nicholas Sawicki, Lehigh University

Gustavo Rubim, Universidade Nova de Lisboa

How to Cite

Mariana Pinto dos Santos, "On Being Modern: Possibilities of Resistance through Primitivism and Ingenuousness in Ernesto de Sousa and Almada Negreiros", RIHA Journal 0137, 15 July 2016, URL:, URN: [see metadata].


The text of this article is provided under the terms of the Creative Commons License CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

1 This article is a revised and extended version of two conference papers, each partially addressing some of the issues in this final text: "South's Extreme West, West's Extreme South" presented at October Seminar, FCSH, Lisbon, 17-18 October 2014; and "On Being Modern: Primitivism and Ingenuousness in Ernesto de Sousa and Almada Negreiros" presented at the international conference Southern Modernisms: Critical Stances Through Regional Appropriations, ESAP, Oporto, 19-21 February 2015. Unless otherwise stated, all translations are mine.

2 Joaquim Namorado, "Do neo-realismo. Armando Fontes," in: O Diabo (31 December 1938).

3 Ernesto de Sousa, "Chegar depois de todos com Almada Negreiros," in: Colóquio: Revista de Artes e Letras 60 (October 1970), 43-47. It was Almada Negreiros, in fact, who had borrowed the Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso painting.

4 Namely the performance Nós Não Estamos Algures held in Clube 1º Acto in Algés, 1969, with posters with phrases by Almada Negreiros (from A Invenção do Dia Claro, 1921), music by Jorge Peixinho, poetry readings (of the poets Almada Negreiros, Mário Cesariny, Herberto Helder, Luiza Neto Jorge) and slide projection; and also Luiz Vaz 73, 1974, which had slide projections and music by Jorge Peixinho about the epic poem Os Lusíadas, by Luiz Vaz de Camões, signalling the date when Camões read the poem to the king, 400 years before, in 1573.

5 As he mentions, while explaining the experimental works he was engaged with, in the interview "Ernesto de Sousa fala ao Diário Popular dos Mixed-Média e do festival de Gand," in: Diário Popular (6 May 1975), reproduced in Ernesto de Sousa. Revolution My Body, exh. cat., eds. Maria Helena de Freitas and Miguel Wandschneider, Lisbon 1998, 266-268.

6 The play Desperta e Canta by Clifford Odets (December 1965 – February 1966) and O Gebo e a Sombra by Raul Brandão, February 1966. See Ernesto de Sousa, Espólio D6, Biblioteca Nacional de Lisboa, Caixa 45.

7 Ernesto de Sousa, "Para uma introdução ao conhecimento da arte popular," in: Jornal de Letras e Artes (3 June 1964); repeated in "Conhecimento da Arte Moderna e Arte Popular," in: Arquitectura 83 (September 1964).

8 With a Gulbenkian Foundation scholarship between 1966 and 1968.

9 See Mariana Pinto dos Santos, Vanguarda & Outras Loas. Percurso Teórico de Ernesto de Sousa, Lisbon 2007; Ernesto de Sousa. Revolution My Body.

10 In 1965 (Galeria Divulgação, Lisbon) and 1967 (Galeria Quadrante, Lisbon), see

11 In the CFA, Artistic Training Course, taught at the National Society of Fine Arts in Lisbon.

12 "Ernesto de Sousa: a procura inquieta," interview by Artur Fino, in: Litoral 784 (15 November 1969), reproduced in Ernesto de Sousa. Revolution My Body, 191-195.

13 Ernesto attended the Undici Giorni di Arte Collettiva (Eleven Days of Collective Art) in Pejo, Italy, 1969. See Santos, Vanguarda & Outras Loas, 169.

14 Ernesto de Sousa, "Chegar depois de todos com Almada Negreiros," in: Colóquio: Revista de Artes e Letras 60 (October 1970), 43-47.

15 Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge (UK) 1983.

16 Ernesto de Sousa, "Passado e Passadismo," in: Vida Mundial 1850 (27 February 1975).

17 Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time. Modernity and Avant-Garde, London/ New York 1995, xii.

18 José de Almada Negreiros, "Ingenuidade Voluntária ou as Desventuras da Esperteza Saloia" [1937], in: Manifestos e Conferências, eds. Fernando Cabral Martins et al., Lisbon 2006, 243-255.

19 José de Almada Negreiros, "Prefácio," in: Manuel de Lima, Um Homem de Barbas, Lisbon 1973 [1st edition 1944].

20 The friends were Amadeo de Souza Cardoso and Guilherme de Santa-Rita, see Almada Negreiros, Orpheu 1915-1965, Lisbon 1965.

21 See Paulo Ferreira, Correspondance de Quatre Artistes Portugais avec Sonia et Robert Delaunay, Paris 1972. See also Mariana Pinto dos Santos, "'Já sou o galope': cor, palavra, imaginação, espectáculo," in: almada nada – manual de leitura, Porto 2014, 61-66.

22 K4 O Quadrado Azul, Lisbon 1918; O Menino de Olhos de Gigante, 1921 (manuscript held at Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon – Modern Collection).

23 José de Almada Negreiros, ed., Sudoeste 1 (June 1935), republished in facsimile edition in 1982 (Contexto Editora, Lisbon).

24 José de Almada Negreiros, "Vistas do SW," in: Sudoeste 2 (October 1935), 4.

25 Fernando Pessoa, "Nós os de 'Orpheu'," in: Sudoeste 3 (November 1935), 3.

26 João Gaspar Simões, "Nós 'A Presença'," in: Sudoeste 3 (November 1935), 22.

27 Nuno Júdice, "Sudoeste: Direcção plural," introduction to the facsimile edition of Sudoeste, Lisbon 1982, vi.

28 See Luís Trindade, O Estranho Caso do Nacionalismo Português, Lisbon 2008, 241.

29 José de Almada Negreiros, "Arte e Política," in: Sudoeste 1 (June 1935), 12-13.

30 José de Almada Negreiros, "Prometeu, ensaio espiritual da Europa," in: Sudoeste 1 (June 1935), 15-29.

31 Single Direction is the title of a greatly misunderstood conference by Almada, delivered in 1932, in the Almeida Garrett National Theatre (later D. Maria II National Theatre) by invitation of the actress Amélia Rey Colaço, just after he returned to Portugal from Madrid. It was repeated in Coimbra, at the Academic Association by invitation of the Presença magazine and published as a book in July of that same year. See José de Almada Negreiros, Direcção Única, Lisbon 1932.

32 Sudoeste 1 (June 1935), 18.

33 Sudoeste 1 (June 1935), 25.

34 José de Almada Negreiros, "Mística colectiva," in: Sudoeste 1 (June 1935), 30-31.

35 "O próprio humano. Língua, nação e outras paragens no idioma de Almada Negreiros," in: Colóquio Letras 184 (January / April 2014), 11-20.

36 Ana Maria Freitas, "Uma carta de Fernando Amado a José de Almada Negreiros," in: Suroeste 4 (2014), 137-152.

37 See Sudoeste 2 (October 1935), 20. Almada Negreiros reacted immediately in 1932 to Marinetti's visit to Portugal by publishing two articles in the newspapers. See "Um ponto no i do futurismo," in: Diário de Lisboa (25 November 1932), available in Obras Completas de Almada Negreiros, vol. 6 (Textos de Intervenção), Lisbon 1974, 135. See also "Outro ponto no i do futurismo," in: Diário de Lisboa (29 November 1932), available in Obras Completas de Almada Negreiros, vol. 6, 139.

38 "As varinas estilizadas, as minhotas de chás de caridade, os poveiros de turismo, e os campinos das marcas registadas, pertencem ao Portugal das portuguesadas." José de Almada Negreiros, "Vistas do Sudoeste," in: Sudoeste 2 (October 1935), 11.

39 Fernando Rosas, "A crise do Liberalismo e as origens do 'Autoritarismo Moderno' e do Estado Novo em Portugal," in: Penélope, Fazer e Desfazer a História, (2 February 1989), 98-114, quoted by Carlos Bártolo, "Lições de Salazar [Salazar's lessons] 1938: The Role of Progress and Technology on an Authoritarian Regime Ideology," in: A Matter of Design. Making Society through Science and Technology, proceedings of the 5th STS Italia Conference, ed. Claudio Coletta et al., Milan 2014, 763-780.

40 See Trindade, O Estranho Caso do Nacionalismo Português, 26-27, note 4 (quoting the 1932 interviews with Oliveira Salazar by António Ferro).

41 António de Oliveira Salazar interviewed by António Ferro in 1932 (Entrevistas de António Ferro a Salazar, Lisbon 2003), quoted by Trindade, O Estranho Caso do Nacionalismo Português, 255.

42 This has been thoroughly studied by the anthropologist Vera Marques Alves, Arte Popular e Nação no Estado Novo. A Política Folclorista do Secretariado de Propaganda Nacional, Lisbon 2013.

43 Alves, Arte Popular e Nação no Estado Novo, 64-75.

44 Bártolo, "Lições de Salazar [Salazar's lessons] 1938," 767.

45 They showed "photography, forms, colours, simple graphics and modern typography, assembled, in the pavilion case, over geometric three-dimensional compositions that enveloped the spaces. In these works were perceivable influences from experiments of recent avant-garde graphic and exhibition design like: El Lissitzky's 1928 Soviet pavilion, and catalogue, at the Pressa exhibition in Cologne; or Adalberto Libera and Mario de Rizi's 1932 Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista in Rome (other artists collaborated in this exhibition like Marcello Nizzoli, Giuseppe Terragni, Mario Sironi, Achille Funi and many others)." See Bártolo, "Lições de Salazar [Salazar's lessons] 1938", 767.

46 "All this […] was the result of a State endeavour to recover and haul the nation to the same level of progress reached by the so-called developed countries […]." Bártolo, "Lições de Salazar [Salazar's lessons] 1938", 769. For further development of the effort for a Portuguese modern economic and industrial growth, see Ana Bela Nunes and J. M. Brandão de Brito, "Política Económica, Industrialização e Crescimento," in: Portugal e o Estado Novo, ed. Fernando Rosas, Lisbon 1992.

47 Bártolo, "Lições de Salazar [Salazar's lessons] 1938", 770.

48 Trindade, O Estranho Caso do Nacionalismo Português, 55-57.

49 Trindade, O Estranho Caso do Nacionalismo Português, 242 and 255. "Nationalism hid inequality less from the poorest than from the privileged ones", 315.

50 António Ferro, "Alguns Precursores," in: Notícias Ilustrado (24 February 1929), quoted by Trindade, O Estranho Caso do Nacionalismo Português, 240-241.

51 Quoted by Carlos Bártolo, "Damned Words: The Use and Disuse of Modern as an Attribute for the Interpretation of Folk Customs in Theatrical Revue Stage and Costume Design at the Turn of the 1930s," in: RIHA Journal 0132, 15 July 2016 (part of Special Issue Southern Modernisms: Critical Stances through Regional Appropriations [RIHA Journal 0131-0139], eds. Joana Cunha Leal, Begoña Farré Torras and Maria Helena Maia), 38.

52 A name he took from a Paul Valéry (1871-1945) conference: Paul Valéry, La politique de l'esprit, notre souverain bien at Université des Annales (15 November 1932), published in 1936; see Bártolo, "Damned Words," 37. See António Ferro, "Política do Espírito," in: Diário de Notícias (21 November 1932): "The Policy of the Spirit [is] not just necessary, although of the utmost importance in such point of view, to the Nation's outer prestige. It is also necessary to its inner prestige, its reason to subsist. A country that doesn't see, read, listen, feel, doesn't walk out of its material life, becomes a useless and bad-tempered country;" quoted according to the translation by Bártolo, "Damned Words", 37.

53 See Alves, Arte Popular e Nação no Estado Novo, 264-266. The author has pointed out that not only there was an invention of tradition, but also an invention of modernity, and that the instrument connecting both inventions was folk art.

54 As stated in the 1936 unpublished draft "Não, António Ferro, não" meant as an answer to some public declarations by António Ferro (manuscript, Almada Negreiros family estate, National Library of Portugal, Lisbon). The facsimile of this manuscript was published as a separate with the magazine Colóquio Letras 190 (September 2015), along with my study "Almada Negreiros confronta António Ferro: um documento inédito."

55 "Fala António Ferro: No Ramalhão ou noutro local é excelente a ideia de construir um lar para os trabalhadores do espírito," interview in Diário de Lisboa (28 April 1936).

56 Title of the article published by Émile Zola in L'Aurore on 13 January 1898 defending Alfred Dreyfus from an unjust conviction of espionage.

57 José de Almada Negreiros, manuscript "Não, António Ferro, não", 1936 (Almada Negreiros family estate, National Library of Portugal, Lisbon). This accusation was never published, for Almada probably feared the consequences of such publication.

58 For the dialogues established with the Fluxus artists, or the trip to the 1972 Kassel Documenta, where he met Joseph Beuys, see Santos, Vanguarda & Outras Loas, 187 onwards. See also Ernesto de Sousa. Revolution My Body, and the recent catalogue of Ernesto de Sousa's poster collection that maps his interests and the events he saw all his life: O Teu Corpo é o Meu Corpo / Your Body is My Body, exh. cat., ed. Isabel Alves, Lisbon 2015.

59See Hal Foster, "The Artist as Ethnographer?," in: idem, The Return of the Real, Cambridge/ London 1996, 171-203.

60 Foster, "The Artist as Ethnographer?", 174.

61 Foster, "The Artist as Ethnographer?", 175.

62 Mark Antliff and Patricia Leighten, "Primitivism," in: Critical Terms for Art History, eds. Robert S. Nelson and Richard Shiff, Chicago 1996, 170-184.

63 T. J. Clark, "Introduction," in: idem: Picasso and Truth. From Cubism to Guernica, Princeton 2013, 3-21.

64 "Três anos à espera de Almada: Ernesto de Sousa no banco dos réus", interview by Lourdes Féria, in: R&T 880 (20 May 1972).

65 The notion of folklorism was created in the sixties "to refer to precisely the phenomena where popular culture materials were presented outside their original context", explains Vera Marques Alves in Arte Popular e Nação no Estado Novo, 66.

66 The "value of use" is a marxist concept that Ernesto de Sousa adducted to understand the relations between folk art and high culture. It means a non-economic value, the value being related to the utility that something can have for one's own creativity. See Santos, Vanguarda & Outras Loas, 89 onwards.

67 Jonathan Crary, 24/7. Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, London/ New York 2013, 65-66.

68 Trindade, O Estranho Caso do Nacionalismo Português, 27.

69 This is thoroughly discussed in Trindade, O Estranho Caso do Nacionalismo Português.

On Being Modern: Possibilities of Resistance through Primitivism and Ingenuousness in Ernesto de Sousa and Almada Negreiros
This paper aims to contrast the particular uses of the modern categories of ingenuity and primitivism both in Almada Negreiros and Ernesto de Sousa within their broader presence in twentieth century art. In so doing it seeks to contextualize multiple ways of understanding modernity and its legitimation through discursive practices. Ernesto de Sousa reinterpreted an idea of modernity that followed on from Almada Negreiros’ modern experience. The concept of “voluntary ingenuity” was developed by Almada after the 1920s, but it had its roots in the futurist proposals he embraced in the first decades of the twentieth century. Primitivism and ingenuity were the fundamental terms for Almada Negreiros and Ernesto de Sousa through which they reinvented themselves as well as modernity and forged liberty within a dictatorship regime.
Lisbon, Institute of Art History, New University of Lisbon
Farré Torras, Begoña
Modern, Progress, Tradition, Dictatorship, Freedom, Futurism, Primitivism, Ingenuity
20th Century, Painting, Other Art Forms
ODT document RIHA Journal 0137, Pinto dos Santos.odt — ODT document, 333 KB
PDF document RIHA Journal 0137, Pinto dos Santos.odt.pdf — PDF document, 558 KB
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Fig. 01 Fig. 01 Ernesto de Sousa, film stills from Almada, Um Nome de Guerra (Almada, a War Name), 1969-1983, and photograph of the music recording for the film (José Ernesto de Sousa and Jorge Peixinho in the middle). By courtesy of Ernesto de Sousa Estate, available at
Fig. 02 Fig. 02 Ernesto de Sousa’s 1977 intervention on an image from his 1969 multimedia show Nós não estamos algures (location: Algés, Clube 1º Acto), holding a card with words from a conference/ poem by Almada Negreiros from which he also took the title of the show (A Invenção do Dia Claro, 1921). Postcard printed in 1977. By courtesy of Ernesto de Sousa Estate
Fig. 03 Fig. 03 Almada Negreiros, The Devil, 1918. Costume design for the ballet A Princesa dos Sapatos de Ferro (National Theatre of S. Carlos, Lisbon; choreographer: A. Negreiros, music: Ruy Coelho, scenography: José Pacheko). © Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon – Modern Collection. (Right): Photograph of Almada Negreiros performing in the costume of the Devil, published in Ilustração Portuguesa, 13 May 1918
Fig. 04 Fig. 04 Almada Negreiros, N.C. 5 – Invention Vert, 1918 (three out of a total of seven cards). © Almada Negreiros family estate, National Library of Portugal, Lisbon
Fig. 05 Fig. 05 José de Almada Negreiros working on To Begin (Começar), 1968/1969. Carved and painted wall, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. Photograph by courtesy of Almada Negreiros family estate, National Library of Portugal, Lisbon