Amadeo de Souza Cardoso was a caricaturist, painter, and man-about-town in the Parisian art scene. He worked and exhibited alongside internationally-famous names, but you may not have ever heard his name. With only two large retrospectives — both long after his death — he nonetheless has his place among the great Portuguese modernists, even if the rest of the world doesn’t know it.
Cardoso came from the north of Portugal, but in 1905 made his way to Lisbon to study architecture at the Escola Superior de Belas Artes de Lisboa. While there, he developed his drawing skills, with a particular talent for caricatures. After just one year, at the age of 19, he headed for Paris. It was here that he moved away from architecture entirely and focussed on painting — the discipline with which he would make his name.
For the next few years, he moved through several studios, socializing and working with other notables in the Parisian art scene, including Gertrude Stein, Alexander Archipenko, and Max Jacob. He exhibited his work in several countries, as well as locally in Paris, notably, at the XXVIII Salon des Indépendants alongside his artistic colleagues.
In 1912, Cardoso published Album XX Dessins — a collection of 20 prints — and continued to exhibit in prestigious galleries around Paris. A year later, he participated in what some consider to be some of his most important shows. He displayed eight pieces in the Armory Show in New York, Boston, and Chicago and was part of a collective exhibit at the Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin.
In 1914, he headed to Barcelona, where he met Antoni Gaudí, but the outbreak of WWI was upon Europe, and Cardoso returned to his native Portugal. Here, he worked at the house of his uncle, Francisco José Lopes Ferreira Cardoso, who supported his artistic pursuits for many years. It is during this time that this arguably unknown Portuguese painter made a name for himself. Developing his style in the early 20th century, Cardoso was undoubtedly influenced by a mix of Impressionism, Futurism, and Cubism. This made him one of the first modern painters in Portugal experimenting with meaning and form.
He, along with other notable Portuguese artists and writers with whom he kept company, was involved in publishing Portugal Futurista and, in 1916, he becomes involved with the Orpheu Magazine Group. And, after José de Almada Negreiros met Cardoso, he intended to publish Cardoso’s work in the third edition, which was, unfortunately, never completed.
Cardoso succumbed to the Spanish flu on the 25th October, 1918, at the age of 30. And it was after his death that his fame started to blossom, which eventually led to the creation of the Souza-Cardoso prize in 1935 to celebrate modern painters. It was still some time before he was truly popularised, and even today he is one of the lesser known — but no less deserving — names in Portuguese art.