The reinterpretation of the legacy of Bordallo Pinheiro

vik moniz Seven Portuguese and twenty Brazilian artists showed their own and particular reinterpretation of the universe of Bordallo Pinheiro, one of the biggest artists of the 19th Century in Portugal. The end result of this project that began in 2011 is now available in designated shops in the country and abroad. maria lynch

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation hosted on 17 October 2013, one of the most interesting exhibitions featuring reinterpretations of the decorative ceramic work by Bordallo Pinheiro, a remarkable personality whose work spanned from designer to aquarellist, political caricaturist and journalist and whose works can be found nearly everywhere in Portuguese homes, markets, museums and galleries.

isabela capeto

“20 Bordallians from Brazil” was the focus of that exhibition displaying works by renowned Brazilian artists who were invited to created items inspired on the work by this artist who lived and worked in Brazil from 1875 to 1979 and who left his mark in this country doing Illustrations for humoristic newspapers, exhibiting also his ceramics work in São Paulo and Rio De Janeiro.  Vik Muniz, Tunga, Maria Lynch, Firda Baranek or Isabela Capeto are just some of the names whose items we could see in this comprehensive exhibition portraying the passion, social awareness, humor and ideas of Rafael Bordallo Pinheiro.


This exhibition featured further works by seven renowned Portuguese artists and the first who  started these reinterpretations in 2011, on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Caldas da Rainha factory where Bordallo started his ceramic work.  Bela Silva, Catarina Pestana, Elsa Rebelo, Fernando Brízio, Henrique Cayatte, Joana Vasconcelos and Susanne Themlitz were the artists invited back then to create an original item inspired on the artist’s work. These seven items, with a limited edition of 125 copies each, could also be seen at this exhibition in Lisbon. dueto joana

Extremely popular in Portugal, where we can find Bordallo Pinheiro items in nearly every home, the legacy of Bordallo Pinheiro went through a near-death experience when news came that the iconic factory was about to close. But thanks to people like Catarina Portas, co-founder of A Vida Portuguesa, a project aimed at bringing back iconic Portuguese products and with stores in selected locations, a new awareness on the work of Bordallo Pinheiro suddenly grew and the hype was there. Joana Vasconcelos, a prominent artist with a big international projection and whose work focuses on Portuguese iconography was also a major contributor for the revival of this artist’s work, particularly after the work she developed covering Bordallo’s giant naturalist representations of animals in crochet. Previous attempts had been made before by designers who saw the potential of this work and wanted to reinterpret this legacy, but to no avail, given the reluctance of the company’s managent at the time who apparently failed to see the artistic potential of this body of work. This exhibition, aside from showing a cross-border vision on this man’s work is for manya way of showing the role artists can play in reviving and reinterpreting the collective memory of a country. 

Carlos Tomé Sousa 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *