190 Years of Marques de Oliveira Garden

13 de March, 2024

Inaugurated on 4 April 1834, Queen Maria II’s birthday, the Lazarus of Bethany Garden was built by King Pedro IV and was the first public garden in the city of Porto.


The decision to create this garden is contemporary with the establishment of the Museum of Paintings and Prints and other Fine Arts objects (today the Soares dos Reis National Museum), located right next door, in the old building of the Convent of Santo António, where the Municipal Public Library of Porto is currently located.


In the city’s toponymy, Lazarus of Bethany Garden is identified as Marques de Oliveira Garden (since 1929), immortalised there in a bust by António Soares dos Reis, whose bronze is in the Soares dos Reis National Museum (see photo).

Born in Porto, João Marques de Oliveira’s childhood vocation for drawing led him to enter the Academia Portuense de Belas Artes at the age of 11.


In 1873, he left for Paris as a pensionerwith his colleague Silva Porto. In the City of Light, Marques de Oliveira continued his studies at the National School of Fine Arts with professors Alexandre Cabanel and M. Yvon and had the opportunity to make contact with some pictorial movements, such as the naturalism of the Barbizon School and Impressionism, and to make study visits to Holland, Belgium and Italy. His artworks from this period were awarded medals and honourable mentions on several occasions. As his final exam at boarding school, he presented the painting Cephalus and Prochris, which is on display at the Soares dos Reis National Museum’s long-term exhibition.


On their return to Portugal in 1879, at a time of turmoil in Porto’s artistic milieu, dominated by heated debate about academic reform and the teaching of Fine Arts, Oliveira and Silva Porto introduced the practice of open-air painting in Portugal and were named Academicians of Merit of the Portuguese Fine Arts Association. In this context, the Centro Artístico Portuense (Portuense Artistic Centre) emerged in Porto in 1880, an association of artists seeking the progress of the arts in Portugal, just as the Grupo de Leão art movement was promoting in Lisbon, with the participation of Silva Porto. In the first election for the board of this institution, the sculptor Soares dos Reis took over the presidency and Marques de Oliveira the vice-presidency, as well as being a member of the technical council. In this capacity, he organised an acclaimed exhibition entitled “Bazar do Centro Artístico Portuense”, which took place in the former Palácio de Cristal between 27 March and April 1881.


By decree of 26 May 1911, the Academies of Fine Arts gave way to three Councils of Art and Archaeology, with the Oporto District becoming responsible for the Oporto Museum, which was then renamed the Soares dos Reis Museum.


In 1913, he left his position as director of the Porto School of Fine Arts to take over as director of the Soares dos Reis Museum, while retaining his positions on the Council of Art and Archaeology. In 1926 he was forced to give up teaching because he had exceeded the age limit allowed by the new law, but also for health reasons. He died in Porto on 9 October 1927.