«Popular Art expresses the passion and verve emanating from the rich imagination and the social, political and religious experiences of its creators. In Portugal, this art of the people has also been useful to convey deep-seated, idealistic views of national identity, history and character.
Much of Portuguese popular art focuses on three highly imagined places: Heaven (the world of the saints, grace and salvation); Hell (the domain of the Devil, dystopia, annoyance and mischief); and Somewhere In Between (a country called Portugal whose people grapple with good and evil every day, as they have for centuries). Portugal art evokes and gives form to history, contemporary events, authorized and popular religious beliefs and the push and pull of Portugal’s powerful but ambiguous relations with the sea and the land. […]
Complex, contemporary, theatrical, political and often controversial, this is the theatre of a nation, where official ideologies collide with homegrown art and culture and spew forth deeply felt emotions, from ecstasy and transcendence to suffering and penitence. […]»
«Figurative pottery in northern Portugal “was born from a tendentiously feminine world”. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries women occupied a socially mute position in a country that, for much of the last century, the Estado Novo attempted to domesticate even more. Within this quiescence, maintained from 1926 by state-sponsored censorship, intimidation and fear, women suffered an additional, older muteness imposed by long-established asymmetrical gender relations.
Religion and politics under the Estado Novo were mainly patriarchal domains. Usually only men became members of the brotherhoods and commissions that cared for local saints and planned their ceremonial processions and feast days, and often men alone had the right to represent their families at parish meetings. A woman’s property, upon marriage, usually passed to her husband. Propertyless, a woman was expected to assist her husband in agricultural work, tend the garden, devote herself to religion, be a good wife and mother and organize the home. […]
In the case of potters these gender-based mentalities were expressed through useful and valued products. Utilitarian works were always made by men, while fanciful dolls or bonecos, of no practical value, were made by women. These qualities were the basis of the familial economic unit and established an idealized harmony within the rural milieu. […]
The world of Portuguese women was an interior world – confined to house and mind – that in many places, few breached. Within this silent world, the potter Rosa Ramalho (1888-1977) was one of the few women who expressed her rich imaginative creativity. There were notable women potters before her, including the well-known Maria dos Cacos, who made and sold figurative work in the Caldas [da Rainha] area from 1820 to 1853, but it was Rosa Ramalho who best revealed the rich creativity, the restless play of thought and images and the uniqueness of a female imagination expressed through the play of hands rather than the syllables of the voice. […]
Under António Quadros Ferreira’s mentorship, Ramalho’s work came to be acknowledged, by state and public alike, as embodying the quintessential elements intrinsic to a distinctive Portuguese art identity. Ramalho was perhaps the major exponent of much of the corpus of forms that still frames the figurative work of Barcelos. […]»