RIHA Journal 0139 | 15 July 2016

Damned Words: The Use and Disuse of "Modern" as an Attribute for the Interpretation of Folk Customs in Theatrical Revue Stage and Costume Design at the Turn of the 1930s in Portugal1

Carlos Bártolo
Instituto de História de Arte, FCSH-Universidade Nova de Lisboa / Centro de Investigação Território, Arquitectura e Design, Universidade Lusíada

O Notícias Ilustrado was published from 1928 to 1935, coinciding with the emergence of Salazar's dictatorship. Reporting the cosmopolitan life, it described itself as "the only graphic newspaper of modern and European appearance". Its collaborators included figures from among the Modernist generation that would later be associated with the regime's cultural policy. On its pages one can see a renewal of the theatrical revue format, it covered elements that were a repercussion of the Modernists' interest for folk art and the rediscovery of the national heritage. A straightforward analysis reveals that this reinterpretation of folk traditions was mainly addressed as modern up to the moment when an official culture policy was set; from 1933 onwards this modernity was veiled. In this analysis it could be perceived how similar works, by being addressed differently, could imply the different contexts of 1930s Portugal.


[1] Between the 25th of March 1928 and the 6th of October 1935, one of the most important Portuguese daily newspapers, Diário de Notícias [Daily News], published an illustrated magazine supplement on Sundays entitled O Notícias Ilustrado [The Illustrated News]. This came to visually complement a newspaper that is usually referred to as the first Portuguese independent newspaper that was free from sectarian propaganda and political agendas.2

[2] Coincidentally, the magazine appeared only a month before António de Oliveira Salazar's appointment as Finance Minister, after the 28th of May 1926 military coup that eventually brought about his dictatorship and ended the liberal-democratic efforts being undertaken since around a century before by the monarchy and the First Republic (1910-1926). O Notícias Ilustrado was printed for the next seven years accompanying Salazar's subsequent seizing of power, with its publication coming to an end after the stabilising of the New State regime, accomplished with the ratification of the 1933 Constitution (promulgated on the 22th of February 1933).3

[3] Like its competitors, O Notícias Ilustrado reported periodically on social, political, cultural and artistic life, but, relatively to others, focused mainly on contemporary urban life in a more light-hearted way: sports, novelties, entertainment, the life of the rich and famous and other mass culture phenomena, only faintly alluding to politics. This way the magazine managed, like the newspaper, to maintain a more neutral – almost permissive – stance on the national political turmoil occurring at the same time.

[4] Obviously the political situation would emerge from time to time in its pages. If during the first years references to Salazar were sparse, after 1931 he appeared more frequently in the magazine’s pages and on its covers. Mentions to Salazar were mainly in articles reporting his actions, but also in texts about his personality, portraying him as an elusive, yet forceful, dictator. This shift happened around the time a report mentioning his likeness with one of the characters of the Saint Vincent Panels4 was published (December 1932), probably not by chance, and concurrently with the publishing of a series of long interviews with the dictator, at the time Prime-Minister, in the Diário de Notícias newspaper.

[5] In O Notícias Ilustrado, a freer use of photography (mainly), drawing and modern typeface (geometrically hand-drawn) – all cropped, juxtaposed and reorganized in dynamic photomontages through the innovative use of rotogravure technology – allowed for the appearance of a more contemporary layout (Fig. 1). This was almost in tune with modernist experiments carried out throughout Europe, mainly the developments through the use of photography and typography by Piet Zvart, Paul Schuitema, Karel Teige, El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, Jan Tschichold, Ladislav Sutnar, Herbert Matter, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer.

1 Various experimental graphic layouts on covers and pages of O Notícias Ilustrado: n. 106 and 107 (22 and 29 June 1930), covers; n. 173 (4 October 1931), pp. 12-13; n. 180 (22 November 1931), pp. 16-17; n. 225 (2 October 1932), cover. (Photograph provided by the author)

[6] Nevertheless a more thoughtful analysis of the magazine indicates that only one side of the printed paper sheet was composed in that way, the verso being done according to more traditional printing techniques, mainly columns of texts with titles, smaller photographs, vignettes or drawings (illustrations or cartoons) conforming to a strict grid of typographic presentation. On the whole, and after a cover with an emphatic photo, the magazine was formed by sequenced pairs of more discreet text pages and bold photomontage ones, thus permitting the normal presentation of texts – essays, chronicles, interviews, reviews, short novels, ads or small news – continuously intertwined with strong graphic pages. This facilitated its perception as a modern magazine, mainly featuring dynamic images, which allowed the magazine to boastfully refer to itself as "the only graphic newspaper of modern and European appearance".5

[7] The magazine was directed by and relied on the collaboration of several figures of the Portuguese Modernist generation. This was a multidisciplinary group of artists – from the fine arts to literature, photography, architecture, etc. – which since the mid-1910s, sometimes subdivided into different periods or groupings, had practised an approach to some of the ideals and attitudes of the latest foreign art movements, developing more or less similar outcomes and thus more or less violently fighting against the established art scene. Within this, one could find not only the results of extraneous influences (for instance Cubism, Futurism, Orphism, or even rationalism in architecture through the twenties), but also the effects of a critical reflection on the Portuguese identity. These imports developed from direct contacts – through travelling, studying or working abroad, mainly in Paris; or through the development of friendship with foreign artists –, but also thanks to an easier accessibility of the main European culture centres through faster and effective means of communication.

[8] The people running O Notícias Ilustrado were José Leitão de Barros, a man of many talents – artist, architect, writer, journalist and renowned art, theatre and film director – who had collaborated on several other newspapers and was even the director of other illustrated magazines; and Carolina Homem-Christo, a female journalist – still a rare occurrence in the Portugal of the 1920s – belonging to a family of writers and politics (from a republican father to a fascist brother) who in 1939 became the director, and then owner, of Eva [Eve], the main feminine magazine in Portugal throughout the middle of the 20th century.

[9] Among the long list of collaborators it is possible to find poets, novelists and journalists like António Ferro, José Gomes Ferreira, Norberto Lopes, Norberto de Araújo, Artur Portela, António Lopes Ribeiro, Augusto de Santa-Rita, Reinaldo Ferreira (known as Repórter X) and even Almada Negreiros or Fernando Pessoa – signing with his proper name or as Álvaro de Campos, who, from among the several heteronyms used by Pessoa, each with its own personality, would be considered the most modern; illustrations, cartoons and drawings were provided by artists such as Carlos Botelho, Thomaz de Mello (Tom), José Tagarro, Stuart Carvalhais, Júlio de Sousa, Emmerico Nunes and even by the Mexican-American Miguel Covarrubias;6 and it displayed the work of a new generation of photographers like Salazar Diniz, Deniz Salgado, Ferreira da Cunha, José Lobo, Marques da Costa, Mário Novaes, Silva Nogueira, Manuel Alves de San Payo and Judah Benoliel. Some of these authors were to become associated, more or less officially, with the formulation of the cultural policy of the new regime and its definition of identity. Among them it is necessary to single out Ferro7 who became the main character after his appointment as director of the Secretariado de Propaganda Nacional SPN [Bureau of National Propaganda] on 25th September 1933.

[10] Due to the coincidence of O Notícias Ilustrado with this particular period of Portugal's political history, it is possible to observe throughout its pages 'collateral effects' of these political circumstances on the more mundane world: mainly the shift from a rather progressive and cosmopolitan view of society's interests to a search for a new identity implemented by the dictatorship during its emergence and founded on new social, moral and political values.

A cosmopolitan magazine

[11] As stated before, most of the magazine reported on contemporary urban society, lost in the allure of fame and glamour so characteristic of the Roaring Twenties: novelties were applauded; the foreign, as usual, praised; and the focus was on celebrities, first and foremost the heroes and stars from the world of Portuguese or international sport and entertainment (Fig. 2).

2 Covers of O Notícias Ilustrado about the boxing champion Santa Camarão and carnival parties, n. 34 and 35 (3 and 10 February 1929). (Photograph provided by the author)

[12] Therefore, O Notícias Ilustrado reported on people rushing to premières at Avenida to idolize vamps, stars, and cowboys on cinema ecrans [screens]; men were going to theatre matinées and soirées hoping to meet divettes at the foyers, while enjoying scenas [scenes, acts] with actresses and actors in funny travestis; at the clubs, bars, casinos and dancings, appearing everywhere; jazz of electrifying rhythm was listened to, and the charleston, black-bottom or jive were danced; the chorus girls were now known as girls, and the athletes as sportsmen, and foot-ball and box were the most popular sports; both of these groups, the girls and sportsmen, appeared in the clichés [photos] of magazine pages more bare than dressed, announcing a new body-related moral, where the suntanned and gymnastically modelled figure reigned supreme. Overall, the dream of every midinette [seamstress], dactylo [secretary, stenographer] or vendeuse [saleswoman], fantasising on movies and novels, was to secure a chic gentleman that could fulfil her wish of a luxurious and frenzied high-life. All the words emphasised in italics in this paragraph were used that way – both in their original British, American or French version or in an adapted version – in the middle of texts written in Portuguese in O Noticias Ilustrado. The use of Anglicisms – many of them Americanisms – outdoing the use of Gallicisms was also a sign of a shift in international cultural hubs, from the Francophone world to the Anglo-American one, denoting the beginning of the 20th century supremacy of popular mass culture over the erudite one.

[13] This [ab]use of foreign words in writings proves that what was normally understood and desired as foreign was now viewed, and desired, as common inside the country's borders; and when this was not an accurate truth, it could always be exaggerated or even invented, as with the imaginative reports-chronicles of Repórter X that described Lisbon or Oporto low-life at the fascinating level of any American capital of gangster crime, following examples of cinema and crime fiction.8 Inventions, electricity, technology, cinema, cars, airplanes and zeppelins, progress and velocity, luxury, newness, fashion and glamour were everywhere. Finally, it looked like Lisbon was an international city (Fig. 3) and Portugal an up-to-date country.

3 Architects' interview "Lisboa quere pertencer à Europa!" [Lisbon wants to belong to Europe!], in: O Notícias Ilustrado n. 70 (13 October 1929), p. 20-21. (Photograph provided by the author)

A New Theatre

[14] In this cosmopolitan world entertainment reigned supreme and the blossoming Portuguese cinema, with its meagre group of stars, had front page every time anything relevant happened,9 in this way trying to challenge the European or American industry present at almost every edition. Even so, the Portuguese theatre – more prolific in productions, companies, rivalries, stories, 'scandals' and gossip – was more recurrent on the magazine's pages. Throughout O Notícias Ilustrado attention focused mainly on lighter entertainment – comedies, musical theatre, and other commercial theatrical genres –, and not so much on the erudite legitimate theatre, understood as reminiscent of an elitist and tedious past, perfectly criticised, one decade before, in Almada's futuristic Manifesto Anti-Dantas e por extenso [Anti-Dantas Manifesto and in full].10

[15] Theatrical revue was an international genre developed in the 19th century as a light, unpretentious, fast-moving and sophisticated form of entertainment. Made up of a collection of short sketches, songs, dances, comic interludes and even short plays, it differed from variety theatre in that the acts were linked by a topical idea or theme, over time with increasing emphasis on wit and style rather than music and spectacle.11 As a theatre form, it had been successful in Portugal since the mid-19th century. In spite of this acceptance, from 1925 onwards, the Portuguese scene began to present some signs of renovation and modernity, in part supported by Ferro's campaign, in his Diário de Notícias theatre review column, against the lethargy that reigned on the "frozen and inexpressive [stages], twin brothers of chromolithographic prints".12 This way the theatre detached itself from outdated models, mostly founded on Belle-Époque references, absorbing instead the latest ones: from the more popular American or European theatre genres such as music hall, variety or revue to more erudite visual sources such as the avant-garde movements and its outcomes on the graphic and decorative arts. All of this was happening years after the Ballets Russes presentation (1917-1918) in Lisbon13 – nevertheless still present in the memory of many of the modernist players – and following the stir caused by the recent passage of the Spanish theatre company Hermanos Velasco. Some artists who beside the 'pure' artistic activity worked, to earn their livelihood, for the advertising, graphic arts or entertainment industries – shifting back and forth from these different disciplines and thus making them permeable to each other’s influences –, began working occasionally, and experimentally, for the theatre stages. Such was the case, for instance, of Eduardo Malta in the Tiroliro revue (1925) or of Almada for Chic-Chic (1925), Actualidades de XPTO [XPTO's News] (1927),14 and, along with Jorge Barradas, for Pomada de Amor [Love Pomade] (1926), while some others collaborated more frequently with the world of the stage.15

4 "Espectáculos: Agua-Pé" [Shows: Pomace Brandy] article, in: O Notícias Ilustrado n. 2 (1 April 1928), p. 12. (Photograph provided by the author)

[16] Between applause and reactionary indignation, the theatrical revue managed to regenerate itself, and the show Água-Pé [Pomace Brandy], presented by the Luísa Satanela and Estevão Amarante company in the Summer of 1927 (Fig. 4), is understood to have been the first completely modernist play of this genre, "a triumph of modernity and good taste".16 The play presented a music score by Frederico de Freitas, sets and costumes by José Barbosa and choreography by Francisco Graça (Francis) which, for the first time, transformed the decorative chorus girls in a real corps de ballet. In 1928, a critique by Ferro stated that the "clothes have life and colour but speak too much Russian",17 referring to an act entitled Bonecos Russos [Russian Dolls] where Satanela and Francis danced dressed in 'traditional' Slavic costumes probably inspired by previous presentations by the Serge Diaghilev company.18 The play was updated with a new opening for the second act, which became an immediate success, presenting a group of actresses dressed as the national provinces coming to greet a more cosmopolitan Lisbon. Following earlier sporadic experiences with this subject, both the design of the backdrop curtain and the dresses freely adapted national folk elements taken from the forms and features of traditional costumes up to iconographic details typical of embroidery from the Minho region or printed chintz scarves from the town of Alcobaça.

[17] These characteristics were perceivable in other revue plays – just to mention, for example, Barbosa's costumes for the act Arredores de Lisboa [Lisbon Outskirts] in A Rambóia [The Romp] revue (1928);19 costumes and sets by the same author for the Beiriz act – a true product placement by the Beiriz carpets company written in the verses on the backdrop curtain, associating the Minho Vira folk dance with the industrial production20 –, and António Soares´s set for the final number O Arraial Português [The Portuguese Village Fair], both in the Chá de Parreira [Grapevine Tea] revue (1929);21 sets and costumes by António Amorim for the Riquezas de Portugal [Portugal's Riches] act in O Tremoço Saloio [The Hillbilly Lupin Bean] revue (1929),22 or for Belezas de Sintra [Sintra Beauties] in Feira da Luz [Luz District Fair] revue (1930),23 on which Maria Adelaide Lima Cruz also collaborated;24 Armando Bruno's costumes for the singer Corina Freire in the Nina del Portugal act from Maurice Chevalier's Parade du Monde revue, presented at the Paris casino in 1937;25 and Jorge Herold's work for the Santo António está no Trono [Saint Anthony is on the Throne] act in the Fanfarra [Fanfarre] revue (1938).26 As one may note, the titles of the acts, and even of some plays, addressed popular terms, themes or references, most of the time with ironic undertones. Despite their emergence and success, these folk-based acts continued to appear mingled with acts of a completely different nature, a common situation in a theatre genre characterised as a series of unrelated independent musical, comedic or dancing scenes that reviewed the latest events, stories or fads. As an example of this mixture, in the Cantiga Nova [New Song] revue (1933) the act entitled with the same name and a dancing duet act were inspired by national folk customs; nevertheless another act called Habanera was of Andalusian flamenco inspiration; another presented exotic oriental costumes; two more were done according to Hollywood musical models, one of them an amorous dancing duet in the Astaire manner; yet another was set in a romantic neo-rocaille mood, and one last act with Satanela and all the girls was a Dietrich-style transvestite number, the "curious number 'Good by boy'".27

[18] Between more or less naked girls, actors with witty remarks, funny up-to-date songs and dialogues, or glamorous and spectacular acts that tried to copy the spirit of the Broadway Ziegfeld Follies (or the Champs-Elysées varietés theatres and the most recent Hollywood musicals), a succession of merry fantasies was developed with music and dance inspired by the most cheerful folk customs – viras, fandangos, corridinhos, etc.28 –, performed by popular characters – varinas [fishwives] and saloios [rural peasants from the Lisbon outskirts], the ones most recognised by the inhabitants of the capital –, and presented on stage in costumes and sets that stylised the traditional arts. This set the theatrical revue apart from the serious dramatic arts where vernacular references were used every time the narrative required it, although never in a stylised distorted manner, but rather respectfully towards what was authentic.29

[19] Indeed, since the 1910s, the oxymoronic interest of the avant-garde in elements from the vernacular cultures – "valued at that age through all Europe as an escape from academic discipline"30 – had made possible the release from this grasp. This was allowed by a research into naïve or, to a certain extent, exotic archetypes,31 and by the development of new "exercises of formal and colour schemes, enabling also the broadening of themes and a revolution in Art memories through contact with popular aesthetics".32

[20] In the plain Portuguese theatrical revue, the modernist artists – adopting the same references and analytical-synthetic methods used by the avant-garde, distant from the veracity of the vernacular cultures or their noble aesthetic exploratory reasons and oblivious to possible wrongful mixtures, provenances, or misrepresentations – merely reduced the original features to a collection of simple, refined decorative elements. These were used and recombined at the artist's whim, sometimes with other diverse and odd references – from foreign folk customs to expressionist or even abstract references –, as fanciful decorative elements over more mundane objects: sets and costumes. Consequently, through this dreamy notion of tradition, these adulterated references were cheerfully presented to the urban masses. Thus the audience identified with a national era or place not that distant, but now invariably conceived as pretty and joyful. This fondness for these faultless and picturesque reinvented national fantasies, a mix of pride and nostalgia, was interpreted as modern by comparison to the stagnant classic codes or the mouldy historical strictness of a national Establishment subservient to foreign influences. However the genuine sources of reference for these fantasies were not that important, and so their ancestral vernacular, regional or popular origins were dismissed, and only the originality of the outcome or its methods of development were announced. Their sublimation was a sign of modernity and of discontinuity with [academic] traditions.

A New State

[21] The use of the vernacular as an inspiration by modernist artists was a reaction to the seriousness and severity of the academic world and of a progress-ridden society. Nevertheless, rescuing these age-old innocent elements from years of being looked down upon condescendingly as products of brutish and ignorant people seems to have been done free from any political agenda, at least an official one. It should not be forgotten that, when Romanticism reacted against the restraints of Classicism rejecting the rationalism of the Enlightenment and emphasising the primacy of the individual, one of the consequences was the cradling of nationalist yearnings. These yearnings had grown up by the incessantly belligerent socio-political and economic state of affairs in the Western world since the Great War.

[22] In Portugal, in the final decades of the 19th century, the promotion of nationalism partially led to the appearance of ethnographic studies,33 even though their results would only become visible outside the closed scientific circle some decades later. Officially, the state continued to favour the glorified styles associated with the periods of national greatness, thus perpetuating an academic historical stance and refusing to praise, or at least acknowledge, the production by simple peasants understood as the work of the illiterate and overlooked by the domineering globalised civilizational progress.

[23] Notwithstanding this, with the outcome of the 28th May 1926 coup d'état and the emergence of the ultra-right regime, Portugal, like similar contemporary regimes, inflamed its autonomic and nationalist principles, dutifully campaigning against the internationalisms: either political (communism, socialism or liberal-democracy), economic (capitalism), moral (atheism, individualism) or of social posture (progress, modernity, cosmopolitanism). For the new regime modern would become a bad word – as bad as many others from the modern progressive world. Instead, the regime identified itself, to some extent, with the motto of the ephemeral political right-wing magazine Ordem Nova [New Order], which was published between 1926 and 1927:

anti-modern, anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-bourgeois and anti-Bolshevik, counter-revolutionary; reactionary; Catholic, Apostolic and Roman; monarchic; intolerant and uncompromising; unsympathising with writers, journalists and any professional of the letters, arts and press.34

[24] The exaltation of national values rooted in the nation’s mythical origins served to celebrate Portugal’s history and uniqueness, from now on validating the [re]discovery of folk arts as the, now honoured, innocent expression of the character of the Portuguese people, the founding basis of the nation. This policy would be strongly supported by Ferro's concern as to the national cultural and artistic development:

A conscious and deliberate development of art and literature is, after all, as necessary for a nation's progress as its development of sciences, public infrastructures, industry, commerce and agriculture. [...] The Política do Espírito [Policy of the Spirit]35 [...] is not just necessary for the Nation's prestige abroad, although of the utmost importance from such point of view. It is also necessary for its inner prestige, its reason to subsist. A country that does not see, read, listen or feel, does not walk out of its material life, and becomes a useless and bad-tempered country.36

[25] This question, which was previously discussed with Salazar in the 1932 Diário de Notícias interviews, would found the programme that Ferro officially developed at the head of the SPN [Secretariat for National Propaganda] in 1933, then envisaged as more than a mere propaganda department. There, he established culture as one of the Nation's priorities, and so the ethnographical study of folk arts was now conscientiously developed, promoted and reconfigured. The friendlier and more approachable popular culture – or its somewhat [in]direct outcomes – would be officially presented as a valuable alternative to an aloof erudite culture, the customary heir to international influences.

[26] Collaborating with Ferro in the SPN was "a bunch of lads full of talent and vigour that wait anxiously to be useful to their Country!"37 – most of them old modernist comrades. Among the team of artistas-decoradores [artists-decorators] responsible for most of the initiatives of the regime were Bernardo Marques, Botelho, Eduardo Anahory, Emmerico, Estrela Faria, José Rocha, Manuel Lapa, Maria Keil, Fred Kradolfer, the Novaes brothers, Paulo Ferreira, and Tom. Working with these "lads", numerous activities were developed by Ferro: several popular competitions; the creation of theatre and ballet companies, travelling cinema and library services; diverse editorial lines (from tourism guides and art catalogues to propaganda pamphlets in various languages); an extensive programme of national prizes; the development of an ethnographic collection presented all over the world; the production of a large number of exhibitions; and the significant task of presenting Portugal abroad in different events and media.

[27] This official search for the genuine aspect of the regional, this return to the roots or creation of re-invented ones was the result of this teamwork between arts and politics, and would turn out to be fundamental to the formulation and promotion of the values and ideals of the regime that supported the creation of a New State, that was, however, no longer modern.

Damned words before ...

[28] During the first years of publication, in the pages of O Notícias Ilustrado the word modern could be a common attribute for almost everything: from a new invention to a new hairdo or the most recent momentary fad. Nevertheless, it obviously identified the latest trends of architecture, cinema, theatre, dance or the arts in general, which were frequently reported denoting a more or less accurate use of the term in the context of the present-day definition or characterization of the avant-garde arts movements.

[29] Through the pages of the magazine, the Portuguese reader had an almost synchronous perception of, for instance, the architectural works of Erich Mendelsohn (Fig. 5),38 Paul Tournon,39 Mallet Stevens,40 or the work of the brothers Hans and Oskar Gerson, Fritz Höger and the collective of Klophaus, Schoch and Putlitz;41 but also of the cinema of Abel Gance,42 Fritz Lang,43 Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau,44 or the Russians Tourjansky, Pudovkin and Eisenstein,45 visible in the numerous movie theatres arising all over Lisbon – or not, as an article by Lopes Ribeiro would explain the greatness of the Soviet cinematographic experience but also its necessary censorship for the Portuguese audience.46 In the case of these two artistic areas, architecture and cinema, the Portuguese authors were also presented in numerous articles and interviews: on the one hand, Portuguese modernist architects such as Carlos Ramos (Fig. 5), Cristino da Silva, Pardal Monteiro, Cottinelli Telmo, Jacobetty Rosa, etc. with great photographic coverage of finished works and of models and projects; on the other hand, predictable reports about Leitão de Barros's movies, but also about Lopes Ribeiro's and Chianca de Garcia's films, or even about Artur Costa Macedo's documentaries and the experimental Manoel de Oliveira's Douro Faina Fluvial [Labour on the River Douro] (1931).

5 (left) Eric Mendelsohn's work in "A estranha arquitectura moderna" [The Unusual Modern Architecture] article, in: O Notícias Ilustrado n. 79 (15 December 1929), p. 9; (right) "Carlos Ramos: Um grande arquitecto modernista" [Carlos Ramos: A Great Modernist Architect] article, in: O Notícias Ilustrado n. 104 (8 June 1930), p. 12. (Photograph provided by the author)

[30] In the case of the stage arts, dance and national theatre were the most reported ones as foreign theatre was more difficult to report due to the language factor. In a country with an almost inexistent dance scene all the new dancers or choreographers, whether foreigners or locals, who appeared with a rush of fresh air and a scent of the contemporary, even if just importing the latest trends of the musical theatre from abroad, were immediately called modern[ists].

[31] The Portuguese modernist artists and authors got more space than the foreign ones in articles reporting exhibition openings, editions or just praising their work. As such there were also contributions from leading authors, like Almada and Pessoa, but also from many of their contemporaries or from those of a younger generation, like Sarah Affonso, Tagarro, António Botto, Tom, etc.

[32] One issue of the O Notícias Ilustrado magazine (24 February 1929) was almost completely devoted to the Portuguese Modern[ist] scene, with diverse articles and photographic essays on the different arts; the cover heralded: "In this issue – the Portuguese 'Futurists': the modernist masterpieces and an historical summary of all the modern art movement in Portugal." Throughout this issue the terms modern or modernist, and even futurist, were used in an indistinct manner, sometimes oddly. The front-page headline unusually announced the theme, placing the futurists, perceived as more outrageous, in the main title. The artists were mainly called modernists, as so was their art, but Santa-Rita's poem was modern and Almada's 'sensationist', and if the art presented on stages was modern in the title, in the text it was referred to as modernist. Nevertheless, efforts to define the artistic term were simultaneously jeopardized in a peripheral article about a radio and broadcast exhibition as the event was referred to as having "honoured the higher life of the capital city, displaying signs of a progressive modernism".47 Curiously, the cover presented Rapaz das Louças [The Pottery Boy], a 1919 painting by Eduardo Viana in an almost Orphist style48 depicting a county fair seller surrounded by pottery, holding a painted clay whistle shaped as a pair of bulls typical of artisans from the town of Barcelos.

6 (left) Portraits of the first generation of modernists in "Os precursores do Modernismo em Portugal" [The Precursors of Modernism in Portugal] article; (right) The modernist intervention on the decor of the Café Brasileira at Lisbon in "O Café dos 'Futuristas'" [The 'Futurists’' Cafe] article; Marques's frieze for Ferro's apartment illustrating folkloric dancers in "Os Modernistas nos 'interiores'" [The Modernists on Interiors] article; and Carlos Ramos's decoration of Bristol nightclub with works by Ernesto do Canto, Soares and Almada in "O Clube dos Modernistas" [The Modernists’ Club] article, in: O Notícias Ilustrado n. 37 (24 February 1929), p. 8-9). (Photograph provided by the author)

[33] On the inside pages there were: a critical essay about the [Portuguese] "futurists of all times" commenting on the eternal inevitability of new 'isms' by Feliciano Santos, and a Ferro article recalling the forefathers of the modernist movement, singularly honouring Mário de Sá Carneiro, enunciating the history until then; pages with portraits of the precursors of modernism in Portugal – Almada, José Pacheco, Amadeu de Sousa Cardoso, Santa-Rita Pintor, Sá Carneiro, Raul Leal, Alfredo Pedro Guisado, Ferro, and four repeated portraits of Pessoa, as himself and as his heteronyms Álvaro de Campos, Ricardo Reis and Alberto Caeiro (Fig. 6); photos of the main contemporary modernist sculptors, painters, architects, poets and writers, including, among others, Soares, Stuart, Emmerico, Raul Lino, Ramos, Carlos Carneiro, Mário Novaes and Cottinelli; a representation of two 1913 'cubist' paintings by Santa-Rita Pintor and Amadeu de Sousa Cardoso (both of whom died in 1918); poems by Almada (illustrated by himself) and Santa-Rita (with an illustration by Cottinelli); an article on the 1929 Seville Ibero-American Exposition with modernist paintings by Barradas, Lino António and Abel Manta;49 a page with several examples of modernist or futurist interiors (Fig. 6); and, last but not least, an article about modern art in the theatre presenting sets by Soares and Leitão de Barros with Martins Barata and mentioning the stage design work of Raul Lino, Pacheco, Barradas and Luiz Turcifal.

[34] Following the development that took place in revue theatre during this period, many other articles emphatically referring to its intrinsic modernity appeared throughout these earlier years. The most interesting for this study are those that, while depicting re-enacted well-known folk acts – thus evoking tradition –, termed them modern or modernist, dismissing references to their vernacular sources.

[35] The above-mentioned article about interventions by modern artists in the theatre, entitled Modern Art in the Theatre (Fig. 7), presented Soares' set for the A Rambóia [The Romp] revue, with a photograph of two dancers in regional costume dancing in front of a backdrop curtain depicting expressionist pairs of twisting folk dancers surrounded by a zigzag border, and more realistic rustic interiors by Leitão de Barros for other serious theatre plays.50

7 "A arte moderna no teatro" [Modern Art in the Theatre] article, in: O Notícias Ilustrado n. 37 (24 February 1929), p. 4-5. (Photograph provided by the author)

[36] Another set by Soares, for the Chá de Parreira [Grapevine Tea] revue, presented in an article entitled Modern Décor in the Theatre (Fig. 8), was illustrated by a photo of the chorus girls dressed as peasants from the Minho region and as the saloias from the outskirts of Lisbon in front of a backdrop curtain showing a fête in the main square of a rural village, all of it described as a "good and stable example of a modern scene decoration". Although the costumes more or less accurately followed the originals, the set was once more done in Soares' characteristic style.51

8 Set of António Soares for the Chá de Parreira revue in "As modernas decorações no teatro" [Modern Decor in the Theatre] article, in: O Notícias Ilustrado n. 63 (25 August 1929), p. 14. (Photograph provided by the author)

[37] The photographic essay Theatre: The Brilliant Collaboration of the Modernists (Fig. 9)52 featured four different sets from the 1929 revue O Ricocó, two of which were once again carried out according to an unmentioned Portuguese folk theme depicted through a modernist mind-set: The first, by the sculptors Ruy Roque Gameiro and Salvador Barata Feio, for an act entitled No Reino da Trapolândia [In the 'Ragland' Kingdom], presented a group of houses and several popular characters on the side drapes in an almost cubist style patchwork/ collage of geometric flat pieces of cloth; the second, by Stuart (?), was a distorted high-angle shot of a county fair surrounded by festoons of coloured paper rosettes and traditional clay jugs and chestnut roasters.

9 Sets by Ruy Roque Gameiro with Salvador Barata Feio, Stuart Carvalhais, and Luiz Benavente with Vasco Marques in "Teatro: uma brilhante colaboração dos Modernistas" [Theatre: The Brilliant Collaboration of the Modernists] article, in: O Notícias Ilustrado n. 72 (27 October 1929), p. 11. (Photograph provided by the author)

[38] The article entitled "The Modernist Costumes of Maria Adelaide Lima Cruz and António Amorim" (Fig. 10) presented drawings from these two artists – "vanguard of the young artists from our country" – mostly inspired by shapes and details of regional costumes. The text expressed the hope that "the direction of their work does not stray from the modernism championed by the best painting schools and the boldest pictorial conceptions".53

10 "Os figurinos modernistas de Maria Adelaide Lima Cruz e António Amorim" [The Modernist Costumes of Maria Adelaide Lima Cruz and António Amorim] article, in: O Notícias Ilustrado n. 86 (2 February 1930), p. 20-21. (Photograph provided by the author)

[39] Still in 1933, on a back cover photograph (Fig. 11), Francis and Ruth Walden were pictured dressed as peasants dancing with an accordion in a scene from A Cantiga Nova [New Song] – almost certainly a humorous reference to the recent designation of the regime as Estado Novo [New State] – in front of a Dr. Caligariesque skewed street view, with the caption "A grand note of Modern Art: Francis and Ruth; the remarkable dances of 'Cantiga Nova', colossal success in Politeama".54

11 "Uma grande nota de Arte Moderna: Francis e Ruth" [A Grand Note of Modern Art: Francis and Ruth], in: O Notícias Ilustrado n. 257 (14 May 1933), back cover. (Photograph provided by the author)

[40] Until 1932, articles about Francis had referred to him as modern, as dancing "bizarre choreographic modern motives, American, Indian and African, but also beautiful classic evocations";55 they mentioned the "Modern Artists § Francis the elegant and stylised dancer";56 and they labelled him as "Francis: a rehearsal master of modern dance performances"57 or as the "Legs Dictator […] creator of new rhythms and brand new horizons for the Portuguese theatrical dances" stating "that others have followed these modern tendencies".58

[41] None of these articles mentions the local, popular, regional, traditional character, not even alludes to the picturesque representation of a scene. In spite of this, these kind of remarks appeared in other articles about country fairs, annual religious processions or rural festivities, events happening outside the urban space, in the countryside. At best they would be mentioned in accounts of Lisbon presentations of peasant folk groups or of some fantasised re-enactments, but never in reports on the cosmopolitan stages of the capital. The conclusion one may draw is that things could not be misunderstood, given that the latter were spaces of modernity.

... and after

[42] From approximately 1933 onwards, about the time the SPN was set up, the situation became different and allusions to the modern would eventually disappear from articles about revue theatre while the regional, popular or traditional references began to be evoked in relation to the same kind of presentations. In an article reporting on the revue O Fim do Mundo [The End of the World] (Fig. 12), a folk act with a backdrop curtain representing a mishmash view of the colonial exhibition and a group of chorus girls dressed with mini-skirted pseudo-traditional costumes was now described as "the final act, a stylisation of costumes from our provinces".59

12 "O Fim do Mundo no Coliseu: o grande exito da actualidade, a super fantasia de 1934" [The End of the World at Coliseu: Nowadays Big Hit, a 1934 Super Fantasy] article, in: O Notícias Ilustrado n. 335 (11 November 1934), p. 14-15. (Photograph provided by the author)

[43] The Zé dos Pacatos [Easy-going Joe] revue was "a great popular entertainment"60 – the use of popular was from here on lost between the dual meanings of widely accepted and of folk origin – with scenes inspired by the most recent cinema successes: Severa and As Pupilas do Senhor Reitor [The Dean's Pupils], both movies dealing with traditional themes: the first based on the story of a famous 19th century Fado singer and the other on Júlio Dinis' rural romance. In these scenes, and in others named Terra Portuguesa [Portuguese Land] and Traje Português [Portuguese Costume], the costumes once again followed this folk origin but, as before, with altered proportions and enhanced decorative features that would re-create stereotyped versions of the original garments.

[44] The work of Lima Cruz, one of the vanguard artists mentioned before, was once again the subject of a report on the occasion of her exhibition in Paris (Fig. 13). Her drawings "marvellous of picturesque, of fantasy, of decorative beauty"61 were again founded on traditional costumes and in every manner similar to the ones presented as modernist in February of 1930. But now the report included a careful reference to the region or province from which came their inspiration, whereas their earlier characterisation as modernist was no longer mentioned.