NEW BEDFORD – Almost a century later, one of the greatest wishes of the famous Azorean painter Domingos Rebêlo will finally come true.
His dream of presenting his work in the United States will come true on March 31, when the exhibition “The Azorean Spirit: The Art of Domingos Rebêlo” opens at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Organized and curated by his grandson Jorge Rebêlo, the exhibition will bring together 71 paintings and works on paper from private and public collections in mainland Portugal and the Azores, which will remain on display in the museum’s Wattles Family Gallery until September 22, 2022. .
“In 1923 he wanted to have an exhibition in New Bedford,” his grandson revealed to O Jornal. Unable to make this wish come true, “he decided to pay tribute to the emigrants who came here [with a painting].”
Os Emigrantes (The Emigrants) is perhaps Domingos Rebelo’s best-known work. Painted in 1926, it depicts people in the port of Ponta Delgada waiting to leave the Azores to pursue a new life abroad and has become an iconic depiction of the emigrant experience.
Born in Ponta Delgada on December 3, 1891, Domingos Rebêlo’s artistic career spans more than 60 years. Considered Portugal’s first modernist painter, he perfected his technical training in Paris and his collection includes thousands of paintings and drawings mastering multiple techniques, which reflect his Portuguese identity and culture and honor his Azorean roots.
Amanda D. McMullen, president and CEO of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, said she was “delighted and honored” that the museum is hosting this collection of works by Domingos Rebêlo, considered the Picasso of Portugal.
“It’s fabulous,” she said. “Seven months will allow us to have a lot of acts to really introduce and explain the artist, and share his work with the community.”
Naomi Slipp, the museum’s chief curator, said the exhibit will reflect the enduring ties between Portugal and this region, developed since whaling in the early 18th century.
“It’s important for the museum to bring this exhibit to this community and to celebrate these strong, long-standing ties with the Portuguese community…and to bring an extra level of understanding to it,” she said.
She stressed that it would be a landmark exhibition on the artist, who died in Lisbon on January 11, 1975.
“It’s a real opportunity to make him known to a wider audience, to broaden the promotion and perception of Domingos Rebêlo, who is loved by so many people but still unknown to so many others,” he said. she said, adding that the museum attracts around 100,000 people. local, national and international visitors every year. “The goal is to bring those audiences together so everyone can celebrate their work.”
On April 7, the museum will host a public reception, an exhibition opening and a round table around the life and work of Domingos Rebêlo from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The roundtable will be led by Dr. Onésimo Almeida, professor in the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at Brown University and member of the museum’s board of trustees; Dr. Memory Holloway, Emeritus Professor of Art History at UMass Dartmouth; and the artist’s grandson.
“He was a poet of painting, with an extremely sensitive look at reality. He was very insightful,” said Jorge Rebêlo, who has spent the past 30 years researching the life and work of his grandfather and attests that his work remains in many respects “unknown” because we remembers him for only a few paintings.
“There is still so much to discover,” he told O Jornal.
Dr Holloway said this exhibition will be a great opportunity to introduce new audiences to the breadth and depth of Domingo Rebêlo’s work.
“Domingos Rebêlo is well known in the Azores, where he was born, but almost not at all in the United States,” he said. “From his studies in Paris, he brought back the brilliant light and color he learned from the Impressionists, and he painted the islands in a way never seen before: light-saturated fields and shimmering seas. C t is now his turn, the moment to finally see him as the exceptional painter that he is, not only for the Azores, but for all of us.
Dr Almeida said that many people in this region will certainly find a certain familiarity in the works of Domingos Rebêlo, because he produced remarkable pieces which “today have the capacity to function as magical works” which can give a insight into the lives and experiences of the Azoreans. .
“An important part of the art of Domingos Rebêlo is intimately linked to the culture of S. Miguel,” said Professor Almeida, adding that it is linked to a time that many local residents still remember well and remember. sometimes with nostalgia because the south coast is home to a vibrant Azorean community.
“Their children and grandchildren have all heard them over and over again telling stories from that time,” he said, noting that an exhibit like this speaks to the hearts of so many Portuguese-Americans.
“When they see this work of art, they see it as part of a past that is still present in the memory and experience of Portuguese culture that they still hold on to,” he said. “The painting ‘Os Emigrantes’ is not, for them, just a painting. They see themselves represented by the hand of a great artist.
Slipp said the exhibition will offer insight into the gradual creative process that led to the creation of “Os Emigrantes” through a series of sketches, drawings and other layers used by Domingos Rebêlo in its development.
Visitors will also find some of the artist’s personal items, such as his blouse and brushes. The exhibition will include paintings depicting landscapes, coastal views, family life and religious scenes.
In a smaller room adjacent to the main viewing area, visitors will be able to view some of the artifacts that will be moved from the Azorean Whaleman Gallery to this space. These will include an Azorean milk cart, the Capote crate and an Azorean landscape from the 1800s.
“It will create a sense of transporting visitors to the Azores,” Slipp said.
“The Azorean Spirit: The Art of Domingos Rebêlo” will be accompanied by a 250-page color hardcover catalog featuring seven scholarly essays, which will be published in English and Portuguese. Half of the 1,000 copies to be printed should be distributed in Portugal.
A 360-degree virtual tour of the exhibit will also be available, providing an excellent resource with enough detail to make viewers around the world feel like they’re visiting the gallery.
“They’ll be able to browse the gallery, zoom in on the artwork, and read the bilingual labels,” Slipp said.
She said funding and logistical support for the six-figure exhibit came from the SouthCoast Community Foundation, Gilbert Perry, TAP Air Portugal, Massachusetts State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
“It really is a collective effort, and without the passion and determination of Domingos Rebelo’s grandson, it wouldn’t be here,” said the museum’s chief curator, noting that an undertaking of this magnitude can pose great challenges, from the unexpected pandemic and shipping delays to the amount of agreements needed to loan artwork for display.
In fact, the exhibition was originally scheduled to open on December 3, 2021 – the 130th anniversary of Domingo Rebêlo’s birth – but had to be delayed due to “logistical obstacles beyond the control of the museum”, according to Evan England, museum spokesperson. .
Massachusetts Senator Michael Rodrigues said he has been working with Jorge Rebêlo to bring this exhibition to fruition since 2016. Both were presented by Augusto Ataíde, the grandson of the person who sponsored Domingos Rebêlo’s studies in Paris .
“Domingos Rebêlo’s paintings are so powerful,” the lawmaker said. “I think it’s important not only for the Azorean diaspora in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but for the whole country to see this as an international exposure. We hope people come from California, Canada, everywhere, to see these works, which is why we chose to partner with the Whaling Museum because they are true professionals. I don’t know anything about art exhibits, but the Whaling Museum does. They have a Portuguese advisory board, who know Domingos Rebêlo very well and they are very happy to help.
Senator Rodrigues said he helped secure sponsorships and grants for this project.
“An art exhibition of this nature is very, very expensive,” he said. “There is transportation, insurance, security, preparation [costs]and many paintings had to be cleaned, restored and cropped.
Slipp said other special activities related to the exhibit are being planned.
“The program is not finalized yet, but there are a lot of exciting things going on,” Slipp said. “We have months and we can do a lot of different things to embrace Portuguese culture around the show. I can not wait to be there.”
For more information on this exhibition, visit https://www.whalingmuseum.org/exhibition/domingos-rebelo/
Lurdes C. da Silva can be contacted at [email protected] To read more stories about the Portuguese-speaking community in English and Portuguese, please visit ojornal.com.