Marcelino Vespeira: life and works

Marcelino Macedo Vespeira (Samouco, Alcochete, 9 September 1925- Lisbon, 22 February 2002) was a Portuguese painter and graphic artist. A leading figure in the surrealist pursuit in Portugal, Vespeira built a long and diversified work. It emerged in the mid-1940s in the context of Portuguese neo-realism, it reached a tall point in the surrealist and very personal works made with 1948 and 1952; after that he went through abstractionism to return, in more recent decades, to the themes and forms from his surrealist period.

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He took the course at the Escola de Artes Decorativas António Arroio, in Lisbon, and attended the 1st year of Architecture at the School of Fine Arts in Lisbon. After that he started involved in graphic arts; he was invited by painter Bernardo Marques to collaborate in the magazine Colóquio/Artes, of which he became graphic director in 1962.

An oppositionist to the far-right New State regime, in the early become old of his sham he was combined to neo-realism, creating works such as Apertado pela Fome (Tightened by Hunger) (1945), with which he participated in the 1st General Exhibition of Plastic Arts of the SNBA, in 1946. Although neo-realistic in the theme, in works later than this “Vespeira already shows a formal language that indicates surrealizing atmospheres”. In the next year he was one of the founders of the Surrealist Group of Lisbon, together like António Pedro, Cândido Costa Pinto, Fernando de Azevedo, Mário Cesariny and José-Augusto França, among others. His play a part then speedily evolved into a coherent and personal language. In 1949 he participated in the group’s first and lonely exhibition, where two collaborative works (Cadavre Exquis) were presented: in one, he worked taking into consideration Fernando de Azevedo; in the other, with large dimensions, with fellow painters António Pedro, Moniz Pereira, António Domingues and Fernando de Azevedo.

Marked by an accentuated erotic character, endowed with good formal and chromatic sensuality, Vespeira’s painting uses a lexicon of contrasting, round, pointed shapes, which permit him to mad metamorphoses of the female body or explicit sexual allusions afterward evocations of the animal world and vegetable. According to Emília Ferreira: “In a game of themes evoking ritualizing situations, we will see the emergence of the bodies of women next large round breasts, vulvas, erect phalluses, birds, flowers, horns …”, like in his well-known paintings Parque dos Insultos (Park of the Insults) (1949) or Simumis (1949).

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From the mid-1950s, his feint changed taking into account again. Vespeira strives for abstraction, first in a geometric style that he speedily left, then into a lyrical different closer to gestural informalism. He moreover started to post the tables in the aerate of a easy sequential numbering. Often dominated by reds, its palette thickens; later, in the 1960s, the composition became more fluid, formally and chromatically. At the invitation of the painter Lino António, his former teacher, Vespeira taught at the António Arroio School but had to depart due to pressure from the Ministry of Education. In the taking into consideration decade Vespeira re-approaches the original surrealist universe (in the 1980s he next uses collage), in works where he relapses on ancient themes and recovers “the sensual view of the world, in its up to date hybridism”, crossing the contours of the landscape and the music behind the lines of the female body.

His long records of decree in graphic arts and resistance to the Estado Novo continued after the overthrow of the dictatorship upon April 25, 1974, leading him to actively collaborate behind the Armed Forces Movement. Vespeira was the author of the renowned symbol of the MFA.

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