Spring is coming to Lisbon! I’m definitely glad the cold weather is behind us. Those winters with 10 degrees Celcius are rough! (The rest of Europe groans). On a Sunday I decided to go to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Museum to check out the Fernando Pessoa exhibit. On Sundays all the museums at the Gulbenkian are free! Before going into the exhibit I layed out on the grass and got some sun, naturally!
The Fernando Pessoa exhibit was packed just as I expected. Fernando Pessoa is one of Portugal’s most famous people behind
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
2. Nelly Furtado
3. Vasco da Gama
4. Luis Camões
5. Fernando Pessoa
I guess it’s kind of a sign of our times that two prolific poets and an intrepid explorer rate lower in public consciousness than a pop star and a dude who kicks a ball around a field.
So my Portuguese isn’t good enough yet to fully get Fernando Pessoa’s poetry. I doubt that even native speakers can decipher the different shades of meaning he puts into this poetry. I have a copy of his Poesia Inglêsa. The book contains the same poems in English and Portuguese side by side on opposite pages. The English versions are at the same time deep, baffling, and strangely tragic. I don’t think I’ve ever read poetry filled with such longing and despondency as Fernando Pessoa’s.
Along with the light displays of poetry in the exhibit there were various artworks that illustrated the period of Pessoa’s life. Among them were Carlos Botelho’s depiction of a late 19th century Lisboa and of course, José de Almada’s famous portrait. The portrait is part of the Calouste Gulbenkian’s permanent collection and is usually housed in their permanent exhibit. For this special occasion it was brought to adorn this poorly lit and dark wall. I have to say that I like the portrait better in the permanent exhibit where it is lit by natural light and hangs against a white backdrop. The colors are more vivid and the illusion of sunlight in the portrait are more striking when seen in brighter environments.
The painting section was rounded off by works by Eduardo Viana and Amadeo de Sousa-Cardoso depicted below.
In order to place the exhibit within a historical and cultural context, the exhibit provided various newspaper clippings from the time period of Pessoa’s life. I guess they did this to not only “fill out” the exhibit but also to show what was going on in Portugal before the advent of the European Union. Various clippings from the futurist publication Orpheu adorned the walls. The Orpheu was a favorite magazine of Pessoa’s and it is depicted in Almada’s portrait of him.
Ok so this part of the exhibit was really kinda cool. The room was completely neon blue and had outlines of Fernando Pessoa in various stages of walking, folding his jacket, holding a newspaper, etc. Next to him were various poems by him and his contemporaries.
I personally don’t agree with this poem, “In search of the beautiful woman”, but I do think it is an accurate and poetic representation of the emotional roller coaster that courtship and dating can be. In my terribly rough translation it says, “Only who could obtain a dummy or a crazy woman can be happy. Searching, wanting, loving…all this says, losing, crying, suffering, time after time.” If someone can put a better translation in the comments then please do so!
I was hoping that they would have a pile of books on a table to round out the exhibit. And there was! Most of them were in Portuguese (naturally) and I flipped through them pretending to know what was going on. They also had this projection screen book that you could wave your hand over and it would turn the pages.
I really don’t know what this miniature thing was all about, but I thought it was picture-worthy. It reminded me of a line from another famous poet, The Bard.
I hope you enjoyed this post and find your way into some of Fernando Pessoa’s poetry. Don’t get too deep though, because it can be quite depressing, betimes. Ciao! Abraço!