March 27, 2019 getLISBON 0Comment

The Bordalo Pinheiro Museum is, on its own, considered the most fun museum of Lisbon… and it may well be true!

Brilliance and humour usually go hand in hand and Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro (1846-1905) is a good example of this.

The diversified, unmistakable and unique work of this artist is here represented in a collection that brings together countless works that take us from the world of caricature and illustration to the world of ceramics. And there are many pieces that make us smile!

We are, among many other things, going to find out how this museum was born and what you should expect when visiting it.

You’ll certainly be surprised

Ernesto Cruz Magalhães, a Man of Causes

Drawings exhibition room of the Bordalo Pinheiro Museum
Drawings exhibition room of the Bordalo Pinheiro Museum

Preserving, studying and promoting the artist’s work are the Bordalo Pinheiro Museum’s purpose. So far, it doesn’t differ from any other similar institution’s mission. However, this house has a very particular story we want to tell you.

The Bordalo Pinheiro Museum was born by the initiative of Ernesto Cruz Magalhães (1864-1928), a contemporary of Bordalo, admirer and collector of his work.

Poet, critic, humorist and a determined republican, Cruz Magalhães ordered a house to the architect Augusto Machado (1874-1944) in 1913 destined for habitation and for a museum, located in Campo Grande, in the zone of Avenidas Novas.

Cruz Magalhães’ personal life was subjected to his philanthropic attitude. He was widowed, had no children and in addition to being charitable, he had a comfortable financial situation. Moreover, the museum revenues were often channeled to social welfare institutions.

He was an active man in the cultural, artistic and political circles of his time, dedicated to causes. The Bordalo Pinheiro Museum was one of them.

None of this is surprising because Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro is one of the rare artists that, although provocative, was very appreciated in his time, being the value of his legacy recognised during his lifetime.

The museum was opened to the public in 1916 and initially, the collection only took up the first floor. However, 6 years later, new rooms for conferences and exhibitions were opened and the Bordalo Pinheiro Museum friends group was created.

Cruz Magalhães’ initiative was decisive in the promotion and reflection on Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro’s work, in the erection of a monument in his honour and in the attribution of his name to the Square where the artist lived, as well as in the extension of the artistic and documentary assets of the museum.

The Beautiful House of the Bordalo Pinheiro Museum

The museum’s façade decorated by a large animal faience piece
The museum’s façade decorated by a large animal faience piece

The curious house ordered by Cruz Magalhães was the first museum built from scratch for this purpose, as well as the first one of monographic character in Portugal.

For this, the architect Augusto Machado conceived a two-storey building in the so-called style of the “portuguese house”, which is characterised by the use of porches and eaves that give it a popular character. With this project, the architect received an Honourable Mention of the Valmor Prize 1914 (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).

We can observe on the outside of the building two evocations to the figure of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro. Underneath a window we can find a faience medallion with the artist’s effigy and a white and blue tile panel by the painter José António Jorge Pinto (1875-1945), in which Rafael is represented as the important Portuguese poet Luís de Camões, equating the artist’s brilliance with the one of the poet.

The façade is also decorated by faience pieces, which were added later on, that represent large animals.

Scent burner “Árabe”, 1896
Scent burner “Árabe”, 1896

In 1924 the founder and director of the museum willed the house and its assets to the Municipality of Lisbon that made renovations and reopened it two years later. The collection was extended, as well as the exhibition rooms, and a Library was open.

In 1992 an annexe was built in order to extend the museum’s capacity, creating a gallery for temporary exhibitions.

Problems with neighboring buildings in 1999, forced the closure of the museum and the building was subjected to consolidation works. It reopened to the public in 2005, after a general requalification of the space and of the museum’s programme.

In the year that the Bordalo Pinheiro Museum celebrated its 100th anniversary, it became of the responsibility of EGEAC (equipment management and cultural animation municipal company), and since then, the programme of activities has gained a new dynamism

The Collection of the Bordalo Pinheiro Museum

Photobiography between 1863 and 1904
Photobiography between 1863 and 1904

The collection of the Bordalo Pinheiro Museum is, just like the artist it represents, multifaceted. Drawings, illustrations and paintings coexist with ceramics and tiles, everyday objects, photographs and documentation.

On the ground floor, the Library offers in addition to the consultation of works available in traditional format, audiovisual documentary material on computers.

The photobiography between 1863 and 1904 provides us a direct contact with the unmistakable figure of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro. We highlight the magnificent painting by his brother, the painter Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, which is displayed midway through the stairs that lead to the top floor.

On that floor we find countless original and printed drawings where the artist’s humour and critical and subversive sense are present.

Coffee set Téte-à-Téte, 1882
Coffee set Téte-à-Téte, 1882

Take a look at the self-representations of the artist, who didn’t even spare himself; at the room dedicated to Zé Povinho, a character created by Bordalo that even supplanted its creator; at the illustrations he produced as a graphic designer and at his personal and work objects.

Zé Povinho, a character created by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro in 1875
Zé Povinho, a character created by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro in 1875

You won’t be able to stop yourself from smiling and realising the topicality of the satirical cartoons you’ll find here. Bordalo’s messages are always related to the defence of universal moral and ethical values. For this reason they are timeless and aim to unsettle the conscience of the passive ones.

It is certainly with pleasure that you will go through this exhibition space that we invite you to get to know or to revisit and that is always filled with positivity and good vibes.

Temporary exhibition hall - “Forms of Desire Exhibition”
Temporary exhibition hall – “Forms of Desire Exhibition”

The Museum has a shop where you can get books and the tempting reproductions of the artist produced in the Bordallo Pinheiro Factory of Artistic Earthenware.  

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