Henrique Pousão’s arrival in Paris and the journey to Rome

2 de November, 2023

On 2 November 1880, Henrique Pousão arrived in Paris to attend the ateliers of Alexandre Cabanel and later Adolphe Yvon. The practice of drawing was the centrepiece of his apprenticeship.


In 1881, he was admitted to the Paris School of Fine Arts. He visited the Paris Salon in the company of Soares dos Reis and Sousa Pinto.


His health deteriorated and led him to travel to Rome in December of that year, taking up residence at the Institute of St Anthony of the Portuguese.


The following year, he decided not to attend the Academy of Fine Arts and rented a studio, enrolling in the Rome Art Circle. Among many works, he painted Esperando o Sucesso (Awaiting Sucess) (pictured).


This painting was later sent to the Oporto Academy as part of the consignment of works corresponding to his second year as a “pensioner” abroad.


The painting was exhibited in 1883 at the Atheneu D. Pedro Gallery and then at the Triennial Exhibition of the Oporto Academy of Fine Arts, the same year as the young painter’s death, on 25 March 1884.


In this work, Henrique Pousão subverts the classic theme of the ciociaro, an inhabitant of the Italian region of Lazio, represented here as a mischievous, half-clothed boy, captured not in a pose, but at the very moment when he takes a break from his pose and cheekily sketches someone’s portrait himself.


The idea of the improvised artist, a precocious and natural genius, who takes advantage of the painter’s absence to take his place and show his work, in the expectation of an uncertain reception, are aspects that function almost as a projection of the artist’s circumstance onto that of his model and reveal in this work an unexpected dimension of an artistic “manifesto” sent from Rome by the young painter to his masters.


Victimised at the age of 25 by tuberculosis, his work acquired importance decades later.