A significant group of 11 French works are included in the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC) - Museu do Chiado's collection. These works reflect the interest in incorporating renowned artists and a predilection for the modern values of French art at the turn of the 20th century, a time when a return to balance in form was prized.
Memories and personal accounts of Portuguese artists living in Paris from the late 19th century reveal the city as a hotbed of modernity, where Free Academies, cafés, theatres and residencies (14 Cité Falguiére) existed in an urban bohemian milieu associated with the artistic lifestyle of the international avant-garde, one that ended abruptly with the First World War (1914-18). Emerging in the 1930s, between the entrenchment of the Estado Novo regime in Portugal and the intentional inclination towards Parisian art and culture, was the figure of José de Figueiredo, Director of the National Museum of Ancient Art, who coordinated an important exhibition at theGalerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris. With his friend and collaborator André Dezarrois, the museum's curator, he presented a mythical journey through time of Portuguese art: L’Art Portugais de l’Époque de Grandes Découvertes au XX ème siècle [Portuguese Art from the Age of the Great Discoveries to the 20th century].
Shortly after, in 1934, French art was presented in Lisbon at the Sociedade Nacional de Belas-Artes in a major exhibition curated by José de Figueiredo and André Dezarrois, and organised by the Directorate of National Museums in France. That year, the painter and then-director of the MNAC, Adriano Sousa Lopes, acquired multiples in bronze of sculptures by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) and Joseph Bernard (1866-1931) that had been included in the exhibition. Thus began the makings of a new collection of French art, one that was enriched in 1937 by a donation of 6 drawings by Rodin from José de Figueiredo's personal collection. Added to the collection were important works by Aristide Maillol (1866-1941) and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827-1875), through an acquisition in 1947 by Diogo de Macedo, the Director of the MNAC, and a donation in 1987.
Maria de Aires Silveira