Almada Negreiros’ controversial thesis comes to life in the Founder’s Chapel – Leiria Region


Simulation of the application of the altarpiece imagined by Almada Negreiros Photo: Monastery of Batalha

For decades Almada Negreiros (1893-1970) studied Portuguese primitive paintings, delving into intricate geometric studies based on them. Among them, the famous “São Vicente panels”, which the artist defended, were commissioned, along with other works, for one of the walls of the Founder’s Chapel, in the Monastery of Batalha.

However, 70 years after the publication of this controversial thesis, the altarpiece imagined by Almada will be able for the first time to be seen live in the place he believed to be the destination, in an installation which opens to the public this Sunday, December 20. , integrated into an exhibition organized by Simão Palmeirim.

“It is a radical and controversial proposition”, recognizes the researcher who, with Pedro Freitas, studied geometry in the plastic work of the artist. The exhibition “Almada Negreiros and the Monastery of Batalha – Fifteen Primitive Paintings in an Imaginary Altarpiece” is the result of Simão Palmeirim’s meeting with the director of the monastery of Batalha half a dozen years ago.

“We thought it would be extremely interesting to get reproductions of the paintings Almada collected in a single altarpiece and place these reproductions on the specific wall he was thinking of.”

Multiple contacts and partnerships with entities later, the idea is now taking shape, giving life to an “extraordinary installation”, more than ten meters high. At the same time, unpublished drawings, models and studies are presented, signed by Almada Negreiros himself.

The theory defended by Almada is far from being well accepted. The current thesis goes in another direction, but Simão Palmeirim does not bother to demonstrate whether it is valid or invalid, not least because “the panels are already controversial enough”.

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At Capela do Fundador, it is above all about “celebrating Almada’s own artistic manifestations in this context”, revealing “an extraordinary number of very specific works of art, resulting from a personal investigation of several decades on the theme ”, notes the researcher:

“I am working on the work of a modernist. The concern is to celebrate this work, to explain it, to make it more accessible and visible ”.

Joaquim Ruivo, director of the Batalha monastery, wants the exhibition to help “better understand” Almada Negreiros. The educational nature of the initiative is highlighted by the opportunity “to appreciate the“ Panels of S. Vicente ”and nine other primitive paintings, in life size”, which together make up Almada’s proposal, as well as original works, “in a space which is a masterpiece of European Gothic”, thus associated with a renowned modernist.

“It is alluring in every way, even because it reminds us of the timelessness of art and artistic thought.”

The exhibition will be complemented by the publication of a study on Almada, by Simão Palmeirim and Pedro Freitas, and will be open until the end of 2021, with the aim that the Monastery of Batalha attracts visits from secondary and higher schools, as part of the educational service.
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