Art in Portugal generally followed the art trends of the rest of Europe. However, one of the key decorative arts is azulejos, or glazed tiles. It was especially popular during the 16th and 17thcentury when homes, buildings, churches, and palaces used to finish their walls and floors with this kind of tile.
Tombs dating to the 12th and 13th centuries were decorated with a number of sculptures. And after the Portuguese began to explore the newly formed colony of Brazil, it became a source of inspiration for Baroque-style sculptures in Portugal as well, especially during the 18th century.
The first art schools began teaching artists in Portugal during the 15th century. Portuguese artists really started to gain notoriety during the 17th -19th centuries as painters during the Classical and Romance periods took off. These were influenced by the art capitals of Italy and France. Flemish painters also introduced their painting styles to Portuguese artists as well, creating a deep legacy of religious artwork. Some artists of note during this time were Machado de Castro (also famous for his sculptures), Nuno Gonçalves, Grão Vasco, Jorge Afonso, and António Soares dos Reis.
A few prominent artists have graced the international stage when it comes to representing Portugal. Carlos Botelho (known for street scenes of Lisbon), Paula Rego (known for “storytelling” in art), and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (known for her abstract paintings) have become well known in the 20th century.
The literature of Portugal is written in Portuguese, which developed from Galician-Portuguese. Literary works trace back to about the 1200s and was mostly poetry that ranged in a variety of topics from love poetry to historical accounts. Much of these were influenced by Italian poetry of the day. Literary styles from Italy and Spain continued to influence Portuguese verse and prose on through the 16th century. Drama was also introduced into the mix during the 16th century, but it was mostly relegated as a lower-class entertainment.
Like other literary movements in Europe, Portuguese also went through roughly the same ones. Portuguese literature during the Renaissance and the Baroque periods saw an increase in plays, lyric and epic poetry, and prose, although the Baroque period probably had more of a focus on prose. During the Neo-Classical period, historical, academic, and literary criticisms began to be published along with the usual canon of works. Brazilian literature also had its influence on Portuguese writing and was gaining popularity during this time as well. The 1800s brought Romanticism and a change of thinking. A sense of awe for nature, Eastern philosophy, and agnostic ideas began trickling into poetry and prose.
Some famous names to watch for in Portuguese literature include José Saramago (Nobel Prize winner, 1998), Luís Vaz de Camões (author of epic poem “Os Lusíadas”—it was him who Elizabeth Barrett Browning was referring to in her “Sonnets from the Portuguese”), Alexandre O’Neill (poet, one of the founders of the Lisbon Surrealist Movement), Eça de Queirós (novelist, founder of Portuguese Naturalism), Antero de Quental (poet, sometimes thought to be the head of Modern Portuguese Poetry), and Fernando Pessoa (poet, famous for his poem “Mensagem”).
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