Today we’re sharing with you several ceramic works by Querubim Lapa, one of the most important Portuguese potters of the 20th century. The artist expressed himself through different plastic arts, but it’s his vast pottery work, scattered all over the country and abroad, that stands out the most for its innovative and creative symbiotic relationship with sculpture, painting and tilework.
getLisbon picked 7 ceramic works by Querubim Lapa, which can be found in public spaces of the city of Lisbon, with diverse locations, such as building façades, commercial establishments, and public and private institutions.
But before that, let’s get to know a bit about the artist.
Querubim Lapa (1925-2016) was born in Portimão, Algarve and soon after moved to Lisbon with his family.
It was since a young age that he showed fondness for creative arts and crafts.
At António Arroio Secondary Arts School, where he entered in 1942, he learned the important foundations of arts. It was also in this school that he got to know neorealism, an artistic movement of contestation over the dictatorial regime that reigned in Portugal.
He also graduated in Sculpture at Faculty of Fine Art of Lisbon in 1947 and in Painting at the same institution in 1978.
Between 1946 and 1949 he developed an interesting but less known set of painting artwork in the style of the neorealist movement, which can be seen in The National Museum of Contemporary Art – Chiado Museum and in Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. It criticises the social problems, poverty and terrible working conditions of the poor. Later on he came to explore other styles, such as the symbolic and geometric abstractionism.
In 1950 he participated for the first time in collective exhibitions of plastic artists that weren’t connected to the dictatorial regime. This is how Querubim got to know several architects with whom he collaborated later on.
Querubim, the Ceramist
In 1954 he started developing himself more as a ceramist. As the artist said, the reason was: “a need to combine these two techniques, these two plastic expressions,” painting and sculpture, and “the need to colour the sculptures.”
Through the architect Chorão Ramalho, he integrated the historic Viúva Lamego Ceramic Factory, founded in 1849, where he perfected techniques and produced a big part of his work as a ceramist. There, he had the privilege of having his private workshop, just like the artists Jorge Barradas and Manuel Cargaleiro.
At the same time, Querubim Lapa went back to António Arroio Secondary Arts School, but this time to teach. There, he conducted the ceramic workshops, where he implemented modern work methods, as well as new technologies.
It was certainly in the ceramic art that Querubim Lapa found his place of expression.
Let’s then find out the ceramic works by Querubim Lapa that we’ve picked for you!
Ceramic Works by Querubim Lapa
This selection of ceramic works by Querubim Lapa doesn’t include the panel already mentioned in the article Discovering the Viewpoints of Penha de França and of Monte Agudo that we suggest you read or reread.
Patterned Tiles in Restelo Shopping Centre (1956)
This is the first ceramic work by Querubim Lapa. They are patterned tiles for the façades of a housing and commercial zone project of the architect Chorão Ramalho, in Restelo, in west Lisbon.
This composition consists of a set of colors and curved lines and of the alternating repetition of two patterns of tiles. Its main function is to decorate some exterior walls of the open-air shopping centre, classified as a Monument of Public Interest in 2012.
Although it is traditionally flat, we can see it is an attempt to create an illusion of movement and three-dimensionality, which characterises the most emblematic and creative artworks of the artist.
Panel of the Pastelaria Mexicana (1962)
In this historic patisserie next to Londres Square, is one of the most emblematic ceramic works by Querubim Lapa. This panel was produced for the renovation of this space, a project that the architect Jorge Ferreira Chaves invited the artist to take part.
The sun, the symbol of life that fascinated the artist and that led him to explore this theme in countless creations of his, is the main element of this panel that is inspired by what he imagines Mexico to be like. In addition to the sun, we can observe cacti, birds and flowers.
Here we can see the influence of painting and sculpture in ceramic art. To the classic tilework are incorporated expressive relief pieces.
Querubim treated his panels like they were sculptural pieces, thus revealing his creativity and introducing technical innovation to the Portuguese ceramic art.
Exterior and Interior Covering of Casa da Sorte (1963)
This is was the exterior and interior covering project for the former Casa da Sorte (an establishment where lottery tickets were sold), in the heart of Chiado.
This art piece resulted from the collaboration with Francisco da Conceição Silva, one of the most important architects of the modern movement in Portugal. In this project, Querubim Lapa was concerned about the harmony between the shop and the space where it is located.
On the outside we can see a cold-coloured composition of white and blue and green-toned tiles that create harmony between the façade of the shop and the building and, in turn, of the latter with the surrounding atmosphere.
The interior covering however, is a conjugation of the warm colours ochre, orange and red, which contrast with the blue.
The entire covering contains abstract designs that hide symbolic elements linked to the idea of game and lottery, luck and destiny, such as: numbers, zodiac signs, pentagrams, four-leaf clovers, among others. But it is also possible to find surprising small details like the eyes, over the outside window, that the artist added humorously and that catch the attention of those who pass there.
In this artwork we can observe the use of a technique that Querubim Lapa developed in his experiments in the Viúva Lamego Factory. By overlapping opaque and vitreous see-through enamel, the paints would crack, which created textures that became characteristic of his work in this period.
Today, Casa da Sorte is no longer here, but fortunately we can continue to admire the ceramic works of Querubim Lapa while we enjoy the conventual sweets of Alcobaça in Pastelaria Alcôa.
Panels of the Palace of Justice
The Palace of Justice is located in Rua Marquês da Fronteira, above Eduardo VII Park, very close to Amália Rodrigues Garden.
This was a project of the 1960s, having the buildings been concluded in 1970. The idea of including artwork led to the constitution of a commission headed by the architect Raúl Lino (1879-1974).
Three ceramists were invited to produce a set of 16 large (3m x 4m) bas-reliefs, destined to the decoration of the long exterior gallery of the Civil Court. In this project, Querubim Lapa, just like Júlio Resende, produced six panels, having Jorge Barradas produced the remaining four.
These are individual pieces related to the theme of justice. Thus, Querubim Lapa’s pieces are called: “Adão e Eva Expulsos do Paraíso” (Adam and Eve Evicted from Paradise), “O Direito que Possibilita a Paz entre os Homens e as suas Glórias” (The Right that Enables Peace between Men and their Glories), “Criação de um Código” (Creation of a Code), “A Prática da Justiça Apoiada no Direito” (The Practice of Justice Based on Law), “Espírito da Ordem” (Spirit of the Order) and “Temperança” (Temperance).
Panel of the Library and Archive of Banco de Portugal (1985)
In Rua Francisco Ribeiro, in the parish of Arroios, is a large panel of Querubim Lapa on the side façade of the Library and Archive of Banco de Portugal.
It is composed of abstract geometric designs, predominantly blue, alternating with notes of warm colors (ochre and orange) and whites.
This panel can be seen through the building’s pane of glass and it was this panel that led the artist to win the Prémio Municipal de Azulejaria (Municipal Tilework Award) attributed by the City Council of Lisbon, in 1985.
Panel of the Façade of António Arroio Secondary Arts School (1999)
The 1990s correspond to the period in which Querubim Lapa explored geometric abstraction.
This panel of approximately 12m x 9m was produced in 1999 to cover the exterior façade facing Rotunda das Olaias of the António Arroio Secondary Arts School.
In this artwork we can observe the use of deconstructed geometric forms and a large abstract painting of intense colors that crosses the panel diagonally.
This school already had a ceramic low-relief from the artist in 1987, which is on the main façade and that features abstract elements, as well as the school’s name.
Panel of the Façade of Campolide Primary School (2006)
In this school, located in the north zone of Lisbon, we can find two projects of Querubim Lapa of different times.
The first one, from 1956 and called As Meninas e os Meninos (directly translated to The Girls and the Boys), consists of two panels that decorate the wall that separated the playground of the girls from the one of the boys.
In 2006, Querubim Lapa was asked to once again decorate the Campolide Primary School, this time with an abstract panel similar to the one of António Arroio Secondary Arts School.
It was on this occasion that the school was named after the artist, thus now being called Escola Básica Mestre Querubim Lapa.
We’ve reached the end of the 7 ceramic works by Querubim Lapa that we’ve picked for you. The artworks mentioned in this article are only a small sample of a vast collection of ceramic works of this multifaceted artist.
In addition to tile panels and ceramic murals in public spaces, many other art pieces can be seen in several museums, such as the National Tile Museum, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and the National Museum of Contemporary Art – Museu do Chiado.