Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro is one of the most influential people of nineteenth century Portuguese culture, with a remarkable production particularly regarding the areas of humoristic drawing, caricature and ceramic creation. His work represents an unsettling, ever timely reality and a fundamental document for political, social, cultural and ideological study of a time period.
Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro will forever be intimately associated with caricature and artistic ceramics, showing quality and important pieces never seen before, and which, in the opinion of renowned modern artists, are the work of a genius.
Since an early age he was interested in art, and he even attended the Belas Artes school. As he was a keen theatre goer, this was how he started publishing his humorous newspapers, achieving great success with some of them. The newspapers become precious documents for their artistic quality as well as their interpretation of the political and social events of the time, newspapers "Antonio Maria", " Pontos nos ii " and " A Paródia " being some of the examples.
In 1884 Bordallo began his ceramics production at the Fábrica de Faianças in Caldas, revealing pieces of great technical, artistic and creative quality, developing azulejos (blue tiles), panels, pots, table centerpieces, vase busts, fountain basins, pitchers, plates, perfume bottles, vases and gigantic animals, etc.
He became famous as well for his popular images, such as Zé Povinho (an image representing poor and oppressed people represented in various ways), Maria da Paciência (Patient Mary), Ama das Caldas (Nanny from Caldas), the policeman, the priest taking snuff, the sacristan with the censer in hand, and many others. Bordallo Pinheiro held exhibitions in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, where he presented the majestic Jarra Beethoven (Beethoven jar).
His remarkable work with ceramics was awarded with the gold medal in international exhibitions (Madrid, Antwerp, Paris and in St. Louis, United States).
Fábrica de Faianças das Caldas was established in June 30, 1884. Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro was responsible for the technical and artistic aspects and his brother Feliciano Bordallo Pinheiro was in charge of the organizational aspects of the factory.
Raphael also followed the unique architectural design of the facilities which included an area for a ceramic school, where several related courses were taught. The factory and the sales warehouse were surrounded by a park with trees, two springs, two clay pits and it was decorated with Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro’s own ceramic pieces.
At Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro’s factory were created hundreds of ceramic models of unparalleled creativity, based on local traditions particularly Caldas’ pottery, adopting the fauna and flora as decorative inspiration. His ceramic production became well known, especially for its artistic quality, both at a national and international level.
Bordallo modelled, as well, characters based on the Portuguese everyday life with remarkable boldness and critical sense, and in his tiles he created patterns with diverse influences as vast as Renaissance, Naturalism, Art Nouveau and the Spanish and Arab legacy.
Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro with the help of his workers produced bold pieces, either by their size or by the delicacy of the details. The "Jarra Beethoven", which exceeds 2.60m in height, is a symbol of exuberance and talent of the artist, and it is exhibited in the Museu das Belas Artes in Rio de Janeiro.
The twenty-one years of Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro (1884-1905) production became immortalized in the history of Caldas’ ceramics. This was achieved not only by the exuberance and creativity of his ceramic pieces, but also by the high technical level achieved, mainly regarding modelling and glazing.
Manuel Gustavo Bordallo Pinheiro’s mission in life was to protect the memory of his father, Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro. Continuing his father’s work kept this ceramic tradition alive.
After the death of Manuel Gustavo in 1920, a group of distinguished people from Caldas, together with the workers, continued the company’s work. After the serious crisis of 2008, the company was purchased by Grupo Visabeira which ensures a productive and historical continuity.
Bordallo Pinheiro’s artistic earthenware has many techniques and procedures (some of them centuries old), that are responsible for the final product and artistic quality. The intangible heritage of Bordallo Pinheiro has passed down to later generations of ceramic workers, and through the teaching of ceramics techniques is protecting the centenary long knowledge which represents real treasures of our history and culture.
The Arte Bordallo pieces are copies of the vast legacy left by Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro and his son Manuel Gustavo Bordallo Pinheiro. Revealing the exuberant creativity and delicacy for detail the pieces are now produced by the craftsmen of the Fábrica Bordallo Pinheiro.
In Bordallo Pinheiro’s production there are also everyday products, aiming to answer a constantly evolving market. These pieces reveal an essentially utilitarian view within Bordallo Pinheiro’s identity.
Throughout its existence, this business activity has had a strong connection to cultural projects and has aimed at meeting its strategic goals of encouraging innovation and excellence of contemporary ceramic production and its internationalization.
Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro’s legacy is inspiring and presents as well a challenge to many contemporary artists. Many of them find a starting point for their fine art using a modern language, within Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro’s great work.
The work of Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro surprises us for the timeless point of view presented in his poetic contents of ecological, political and social origin.