Women in the Museum’s Painting Collection

8 de March, 2024

Today, 8 March, is International Women’s Day, established by the United Nations. With this day, the UN wants to pay tribute to women of all nations who have seen their role in society diminished and their rights violated because they were born women, and who have fought for citizenship rights equal to those recognised for men.


Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time in 1911, following Clara Zetkin’s initiative, approved at the international women’s congress of the Socialist International in 1910. In the early years it was celebrated on different days, but always in March, on the 19th and 25th, depending on the different contexts or countries.


After the Russian workers’ strike on 8 March 1917, which marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution, it was celebrated on 8 March. The United Nations officially established this date as International Women’s Day in 1975.


The representation of women has always been a recurring theme in art and the Soares dos Reis National Museum’s painting collection has several examples.


We have chosen Aurélia de Souza to honour all women artists. She was born on 13 June 1866 in Valparaíso, Chile, the daughter of Portuguese emigrants. When she was just three years old, she came to Portugal with her family, who settled in Porto, on a property on the banks of the River Douro, Quinta da China.


His artistic apprenticeship began with private drawing and painting lessons from Caetano Moreira da Costa Lima. She was already 27 when she enrolled at the Academia Portuense de Belas-Artes, which she attended between 1893 and 1898. In 1899, she left for Paris, financially supported by her family. She stayed there for around three years and attended the courses run by Jean-Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant at the Julien Academy.


Like the State Scholarship programme, before returning to Portugal, she travelled through various European countries in the company of her sister Sofia, also a painter, who had joined Aurélia in Paris. When she returned to Porto, she developed a reserved career, somewhat removed from the city’s artistic circles, despite her regular participation in group exhibitions.

His artistic production is based on a small number of themes: the ones he favoured and worked on throughout his career were portraits, landscapes and intimate scenes of everyday domestic life. In addition to her own face, she looked for motifs for her paintings in the family universe, an inexhaustible source of inspiration: people, corners of the house, aspects of the garden, stretches of landscape with the river in the background.


Aurélia de Souza produced one of the landmark works of Portuguese art at the turn of the two centuries: the Self-Portrait from the collection of the Soares dos Reis National Museum, done around 1900. She died in Porto in 1922, aged 55.


Aurélia de Souza is one of the few Portuguese women who has a rightful place in the gallery of the great Portuguese painters of the second half of the 19th century, alongside renowned artists such as Marques de Oliveira, Henrique Pousão and António Carneiro.

Image captions @Soares dos Reis National Museum


Oil on canvas ‘A tigela partida’ (The broken Bowl), by Silva Porto | Oil on canvas ‘Cabeça de rapariga’ (Head of a Girl), by Marques de Oliveira | Oil on paper pasted on wood ‘Cabeça de Velha’ (Head of an Old Woman), by Augusto Roquemont | Oil on canvas ‘Cecília’ (Cecilia), by Henrique Pousão | Oil on wood ‘Costume de campanha romana (Napolitana)’ (Roman Campaign Costume), by Silva Porto | Oil on wood ‘Costume de Capri (Cabeça)’ (Capri Costume), by Silva Porto | Oil on canvas ‘Cuidados de amor’ (Loving care), by José Malhoa | Oil on wood ‘Napolitana’ (Neapolitan), by Marques de Oliveira | Oil on wood ‘Lavadeira’ (Washerwoman), by Artur Loureiro | Oil on wood ‘Raparigas minhotas’ (Minho girls), by Agostinho Salgado | Oil on canvas ‘Figura de Senhora com flores’ (Lady figure with flowers), by João Augusto Ribeiro | Oil on canvas Self-portrait, by Aurélia de Souza