Aurélia de Sousa

Valparaíso, Chile, 1866 – Porto, 1922

The artist was born in Chile but later moved to Porto, Portugal, where she lived at the Quinta da China, an eighteenth-century house on the banks of the Douro, which would become the setting and studio for her countless paintings and photographs. Intimate interiors, portraits, scenes from everyday domestic life, gardens, still lifes, flowers and views of the river are all recurrent themes in her work, which is characterised by an expressive naturalism.

Her father died at a young age, and the artist had the intense and highly feminine experience of growing up in a family comprised mainly of women. Indeed, some of them, like Aurélia herself, never married or left their maternal home. The circumstances of being a woman at the turn of the 20th century and within the society of Porto, where she lived, or of Paris, where she joined the Académie Julian at the age of 30, are key to understanding de Souza’s work, the significance of which was recognised rather belatedly by Portuguese art historians.

Her enigmatic, androgynous and provocative self-portraits, in which she depicts herself wearing a distinctive red coat, an outsize black bow or disguised as St. Anthony, are a historical example of a female artist asserting her identity as a creator.

Lígia Afonso
[Plano Nacional das Artes and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian]
Curator, teacher and researcher born in Lisbon in 1981
Text originally written for Google Arts & Culture apropos the exhibition “All I Want, Portuguese Women Artists from 1900 to 2020”, curated by Helena de Freitas and Bruno Marchand