The Art Nouveau Tiles of J. Pinto are some of the best exemplars of this art movement that we can still find in Lisbon and that is worth preserving.
The painter conjugates the international art tendencies of his time with the Portuguese tradition, but always revealing care for the purpose and architectural grammar of the equipment.
A true graphic designer from the early 1900s that we want you to know more about.
The Versatile Painter J. Pinto
Although he comes from Cacilhas in the South Bank of Tagus River, José António Jorge Pinto was born on September 20, 1875, in the parish of Lapa in Lisbon.
He was the nephew of the naturalist painter Manuel Henrique Pinto, one of the members of Grupo do Leão (assembly of Portuguese artists of the 1980s) among José Malhoa, the brothers Columbano and Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro.
J. Pinto studied at the Fine Arts National Academy and was a student of Ferreira Chaves and of Veloso Salgado. But despite his background in painting, he preferred ceramics. As a determined republican, he carried out political actions and was a professor at Instituto Superior Técnico (school of engineering and technology).
Unfortunately he didn’t sign all of his works, therefore some are attributed to him based only on documented evidence or on stylistic similarity.
There’s certainly much more to explore in order to get to know and promote the undeniably important works of this artist.
Our Selection of Art Nouveau Tiles of J. Pinto
The painter is characterised by a strong contrasting colour palette with vigorous and assertive lines, contrasting with a gentle and even languid painting style. His work not only reveals an impeccable classic background, but also a technical mastery of complex ceramic painting.
We can say that the painter knew how to conjugate and interpret two realities: the different international tendencies of Art Nouveau of his time and the traditional national culture.
The latter referring to both when it comes to our tile tradition and to the concept of “Portuguese home”.
There’s a large collection of Art Nouveau tiles that are signed or attributed to him. It includes works where the Art Nouveau aesthetic is present either in a geometric or a naturalist approach, as well as advertisement works that he has done.
Let’s take a look at the diversity of this artist.
Art Nouveau Stylisations and Motifs
We start by highlighting three pieces where the Art Nouveau aesthetic is more evident: the outstanding artworks in Campo de Ourique neighbourhood, in the buildings of the pastry shop A Tentadora and of the bookshop and stationery shop A Concorrente;and in a house in Rua da Junqueira no.225 near Belém.
The characteristic present in all of these works is evidently related to their common theme: tousled-hair women framed by floral and plant-inspired motifs, such as sunflowers, poppies and lilies – the main source of inspiration for the artists of this time.
These exemplars remind us of the pieces of the Czech illustrator and graphic designer Alfons Mucha (1860-1939), a strong influence on illustration in the Belle Époque.
The Timeless Geometric Tiles
The friezes with patterns that conjugate geometrical forms with contrasting colours are similar to the Germanic and Austrian Jugendstil style.
We can observe these friezes in industrial units, such as the Armazéns Casa do Povo d’Alcântara of 1906 and, in the same west zone of Lisbon, the pasta factory A Napolitana built between 1908 and 1912.
The former features a magnificent tile panel with a female face surrounded by flowers.
While the latter also features an advertisement in the form of a tile panel that unfortunately was removed in 1962 and whose location is unknown.
The geometric tiles are also present in elegant houses in the zone of Avenidas Novas: in Colégio Roussel of 1905 (today Colégio Académico) in Av. da República 13, and in the small palace Valmor, no. 36/38 of the same avenue.
The different geometric patterns observed outside the school are in great harmony with the lines and proportions of the Romanesque Revival architecture of the building projected by Augusto Machado.
The Valmor Palace is a project of the architect Ventura Terra dating from 1905/6. Here we can admire the cleverness with which the artist adapted the design and application of tiles to the perfect round arches that round off the building. An absolutely remarkable set that was awarded the Valmor Prize (established in 1898 according to the testament left by the 2nd Viscount of Valmor to reward the architectural quality of the new buildings built in the city of Lisbon)!
Truth be told, some of the most beautiful buildings of Lisbon feature Art Nouveau tile panels by J. Pinto, which shows that the quality of his work was recognised by the most important architects of his time.
We have three more examples, which were also awarded the Valmor Prize, but that this time were influenced by the French and Belgian decorative grammar. The painter opted for more naturalist compositions.
First, a rented building from 1907 in Av. Almirante Reis no.2, projected by the architect Adães Bermudes and that has recently been restored and transformed into a hotel.
Here the painter provides us with a sequence of alternated panels: with swans, ducks and doves; or with two peacocks surrounded by flowers. To complete this set, there’s a frieze with a pattern composed of doves in nests with eggs. The vibrant colourfulness of these panels is notable, as well as, once again, the adaptation of the tiles to the architecture.
The same goes for the building no.25 in Rua Alexandre Herculano, a project of the architect Ventura Terra in 1911, which feature several different polychromatic tiles.
Some of them have discreet stylised flowers; others are bigger and feature Art Nouveau floral and plant elements; and lastly, there’s a more naturalist panel on a big window that rounds off the building, where we can see a stork surrounded by roses.
These sets of tiles go perfectly together with the volumetry and remaining decoration of the building.
Finally, from 1929, another interesting building is a house in Rua de Santa Catarina no.17, which features three friezes and a big panel that rounds off the building. In this case, the panel represents a variety of baskets with very colourful and naturalist flowers.
The Portuguese Cultural Tradition
J. Pinto mastered both the polychrome and the traditional blue on white.
These are the cases of the panels of the house Cruz Magalhães, the current Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro Museum in Campo Grande. Here it is clear that the artist went for a more traditional approach related to a project of Augusto Machado, that aimed for the style of a Portuguese home.
Another example are the white and blue tiles of the dairy A Camponeza in Rua dos Sapateiros that constitute a paradigm of the balance between the Portuguese tile tradition of the 18th century and the Art Nouveau decorative elements.
This is a well-preserved exemplar that we can closely observe and admire in Downtown Lisbon.
The Advertisement Panels and the WC Kiosks
Additionally, there are other advertisement tile panels from the same artist. For instance, the tile set of the WC Kiosk in Constantino Garden and the big, polychromatic panel of the Auto-Palace Garage in Rua Alexandre Herculano.
In our article The Art and Design of the WC Kiosks of Lisbon we addressed a peculiar urban equipment that was projected for the city in the 1910s that feature Art Nouveau tiles of J. Pinto.
The panels of Constantino Garden and the missing ones of Príncipe Real Garden feature similar compositions: identical frames surrounding figurative images. The panels of Constantino Garden are white, blue and yellow. However, in the photos we have of the Príncipe Real Garden, we can only observe their compositions and themes, but not their colours.
In both cases they seem to be advertisements for tobacco, newspapers, flowers and drinks, and destined for a noble location, which demands more strict social rules.
In the remaining kiosks the themes are also related with the landscape surrounding them, but they show more freedom. While the panels of Silva Porto Park are located in a more intimate context and represent a more bucolic nature, the panels in Cais do Sodré are related to the river and sea elements, seeing that they’re in a more popular social context.
In truth, these two pieces seem to be, of all his work collection, the cases where the artist J. Pinto was more loosened and daring, letting both his lines and his imagination flow.