Mily Possoz

Lisboa, 1888 – Lisboa, 1968

A painter, illustrator, designer and engraver, Mily Possoz trained and worked as an artist in Lisbon, Düsseldorf, Brussels and, in particular, Paris. Although she was most prolific as a painter, with work characterised by the use of strong, sensual colour, loose, sweeping brushstrokes and the poetic mood of her themes, she gained the greatest renown as an engraver, especially for her illustrative and editorial work. This allowed her to earn a living from her work from the very outset.

She was a founding member of the Jeune Gravure Contemporaine society, created in Paris in 1929. Her work was shown in group exhibitions of engraving, alongside pieces by the likes of Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso. She explored drypoint and lithographic techniques, in the course of which the pared-back, stylised aesthetic of Japanese engraving seeped into her work. Said traits can be found in pieces such as the drawing of the cats.

She also spent much time poring over Flemish and surrealist paintings, the influence of which is evident from the subtle figurative distortion of her still lifes, portraits and landscapes.

Her work is notable for its cosmopolitan city scenes and bourgeois domestic interiors in which men, cats and dogs are mere background presences, while women take centre stage, reading, contemplating, resting, relaxing and socialising. These are modern, emancipated, independent, intellectual women, much like Mily herself.

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