Multifaceted artist and experimentalist of the Portuguese modernism. He produced rapidly and in sketches, in such a frenetic way that he leaved thousands of originals dispersed. His works included illustrations and caricatures. He was a comic’s author and the director of ABC a Rir, a political and social satire magazine
Stuart Carvalhais strolled in Chiado, towards the Brasileira café. Here, with his tertulia partners – Almadas Negreiros and Eduardo Viana – he spoke about the vicissitudes of the day-to-day of the Portuguese modernist.
Son of a Portuguese father and of a scotish and English mother, he was born in 1887 in Vila real. Spends part of his childhood in Spain and returns to Portugal in 1891. His first job was as a tile painter at Jorge Colaço’s atelier.
In 1906, in O Século, Stuart published his first drawings and in the following year he started to invest time and talent in comic strips publishing in the weekly newspaper O Século Cómico, the stories of O Quim e o Manecas.
Stuart starts standing out from the moment he collaborates with the satirical monarchical newspaper Papagaio Real of which Almada Negreiros was director.
But it is in the 20’s that work proliferates. His career was at his peak, he now directed the political satire magazine ABC a Rir and published works in Ilustração magazine, in Diário de Lisboa, A Corja, O Espectro, A Choldra, O Sempre Fixe and in ABCzinho.
Stuart Carvalhais was responsible for the paintings that decorate a Brasileira, in Chiado, scenario of numerous intellectual, artistic and literary debates.
Lisbon and its people
Stuart Carvalhais was a true connoisseur of the streets and alleys of a sleeping Lisbon. In the nights he spent wandering in the streets, with his partners, Stuart Carvalhais collected pieces of memories to later reproduce in his works.
Ferreira de Castro, in 1926, stated:
“Stuart is an album of weird guys, whipped by pain, by life’s sarcasms and in him the figures join Lisbon’s shadowy aspects, that part where the sun doesn’t lie every day, where there is always darkness.”
The everyday life was Stuart’s alimentation. The satires he published in ABC a Rir weren’t more than the matters that marked the days. His illustrations and drawings had many times as protagonists the people with whom he’d crossed: seamstresses, beggars, varinas, writers, politicians.
His own life, in which success lives together with alcoholism and financial instability, takes him to the experimentation of unexpected materials.
The remains that the city gave him like paper wrap, boxes’ lids, and even some of the drawing materials, among which stands out the burnt matches, were frequently used to compose new works.
The experimentation and modernism were key words in Stuart’s work. He produced rapidly and in free style, in such a frenetic way that he left thousands of originals dispersed. However, in several occasions, his works were exchanged for food, a glass of wine, cigarettes, medicines or money for rent.
The price of a squandered survival, to which corresponded the most versatile talent – as a painter, a photographer, scenographer, as an author of posters or of the covers of records.
Stuart Carvalhais’ personality was outlined by other personalities in magazines and newspapers. Testimonies of those who lived near and known the man and the artist.
In 1927, in Sempre Fixe magazine, Joaquim Manso states that “Stuart caricatures, draws, paints, makes figures of naïve grace and grimaces of tragic impurity, goes from the bucolic to charge, from the screaming and morning polychrome to the dark alleys and of souls with no exit…» and Francisco Valença states: «The unmatched caricaturist of the street guys. Huge amounts of talent and of sand. /…/ Motto: Ó copos hic labor est.”
Diário de Notícias, in 1930, through the words of Armando Boaventura, reports that «During the day – a “pochade” of Malhho. At night – a “charcoal” by Gavarni, Forain or by our very own Stuart de Carvalhais – artists of the pencil, artistis of the shadoway blurs, of the confuse sketches, of all that admirable draw done of quick impressions, without defined lines, without market contours and where there is and lives more than just the shape, the soul of beings…».
Later, in 1960, Luís O. Guimarães writes in República: «With a pencil or with a brush in his hand he makes true prodigies – and almost offends if someone says it to him. Careless about his toilette, hair in the wind, eternal bohemian always looking like he’d lost the night»
In Diário de Notícias, Stuart Carvalhais was publishing throughout his career countless illustrations. However, the illustration done for the cover of the commemorative supplement for the paper’s 75th anniversary remained in the memory of all of those of saw it. It was innovative in the colors and in graphics.
Stuart Carvalhais passed, in Lisbon, on the 2nd of March, 1961. Posthumously, it was published in 1962 a book that honors the work of Stuart de Carvalhais and that gathers statements of the people who met and lived with the artist.
“Stuart e os Seus Bonecos” is an ode to the talent and work of Stuart Carvalhais. In this book stand out the opinions of Aquilino Ribeiro and Armando Paulouro:
“What a waste, Stuart! In a characterless means, with a much diminished culture, without a social stratification enjoyer of artistic beauty, he couldn’t find, I don’t dare say prize, but a proper incentive, his so singular pencil, son a born-geniality”.
Stuart is one of the most prolific artist of the entire world and, probably, none will ever be able to take pride in working for the press for so many years. If that same press had in Portugal, the minimum conditions that every artist needs to create, Stuart would be today the first world humoristic drawer”.