Maria da Graça Pinto de Almeida Morais, daughter of Jaime Morais and Alda Pinto, was born on 17th March 1948, in Vieiro, Freixiel, Vila Flor - a town in the region of Trás-os-Montes.
In 1955, she entered primary school in her hometown. She started painting objects of her daily life.
From 1957 to 1958 she lived in Mozambique, where her father bought her the first box of watercolours. The following year, when she returned to the Northeast region of Trás-os-Montes, she entered the Vila Flor preparatory school. In 1961, she entered secondary school in Bragança. In the 9th grade (1963), she painted the scenarios of the play Auto da Alma, by Gil Vicente. This was an important stage in her life. From then on, she was called painter. The following year, she mentioned that she wanted to study Fine Arts. She started working for the school newspaper “Mensageiro de Bragança”, and painted her first oil paintings
After she finished secondary school, in 1966 she enrolled in the Painting course at the Porto Higher Institute of Fine Arts. Ângelo de Sousa, José Rodrigues and Tito Reboredo were some of her first teachers; however, she was not particularly attracted to the school ambiance. Committed to her training, she dedicated most of her time to reading and painting.
In her favourite discipline, which she took in the period from 1967 to 1970, she was influenced by the painters Marc Chagall and Van Gogh. In 1970 she went on her first and striking trip abroad. She visited London, Paris and Amsterdam, where she met great masters, such as Francis Bacon
She finished her first degree in 1971. She married the painter Jaime Silva and started teaching at the Soares dos Reis School of Decorative Arts, in Porto. In 1972 she left Porto to live in Guimarães, where she has been teaching Visual Education and participating in several exhibitions.
In 1974 she often painted at the café, as at home she did not have the necessary conditions. On 19th April, her daughter, Joana, as born. This was a period of great political excitement. The 25th April had arrived, and brought along the democracy - the opportunity so many artists and intellectuals had been waiting for so long to finally be able to show the results of their creativity. In 1975, together with eight artists and one art critic (Albuquerque Mendes, Armando Azevedo, Carlos Carreiro, Dario Alves, Fernando Pinto Coelho, Gerardo Burmester, Jaime Silva, João Dixo and Pedro Rocha), Graça Morais founded the Puzzle Group. This group was officially launched over a dinner/installation "Expectativa de nascimento de um Puzzle fisiológico-estético com pretensões a Grupo" (expectations to give birth to a physiological-aesthetical puzzle, with the aim to make it a group), at the Alvarez II Gallery, in 1976.
In the late 1970s (from 1976 to 1978), she lived in Paris with a grant from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. She met Arroyo and Rancillac, and studied in particular the works of Picasso, Matisse and Cézanne. In 1978 she exhibited her work at the Portuguese Cultural Centre, in Paris.
In 1979 she returned to Portugal. She settled in Lisbon, where it was difficult to find a place to work. She brought two series of drawings of women, to which she added a third one.
In the early 1980s, she exhibited her work in Porto and in Lisbon. The shapes and the materials used to depict the Northeast of Trás-os-Montes, i.e. her hometown, are subject to a thorough reflection. She left Lisbon in 1981, and went to live and work in Vieiro, where she remained for two years. She continued exhibiting her work. In 1982 she paid several visits to fairs - especially to Westkunst, in Cologne, and to Documenta in Kassem, Wien. She has drawn a series of dogs.
In 1983 she went back to her hometown, where she stayed until June. She started her professional relationship with the commissioner Manuel de Brito. In the years that followed, she exhibited in: Lisbon, Bragança and Porto; São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (in Brazil) - where she attended, very impressed, the Carnival parade, in 1985; and in Madrid and Washington. She has drawn illustrations for several books, as well as the Amnesty International 25th anniversary poster (1986)
She travelled to Cape Verde, upon the invitation of the Portuguese Ambassador. Very attracted to the archipelago, she travelled there several times between 1988 and 1989, and founded the first local independent publisher (the Ilhéu Editora). In 1989 she presented the results of her visit at the Portuguese Cultural Centre, in Cidade da Praia and Mindelo
In the early 1990s, she exhibited in Macau, continued illustrating books and participated in art exhibitions in several Iberian-American embassies, in Washington. She visited Japan (1992) with the Cultural National Centre. The painted travel journal was published in 1993, with texts written by Jorge Borges and Alberto Vaz da Silva.
Graça Morais is the author of several renowned and award-winning works of art. Such works, which have been shown both in individual and group exhibitions, in Portugal and abroad, have been the subject of several documentaries and monographs. They have also been paid homage by several anthological shows (Guimarães, in 1993; Lisbon and Porto, in 1997; and Aveiro, in 2003). She also produces other works, such as: tapestry, manufactured by the Manufactura de Tapeçarias de Portalegre, which can be found at the Assembly of the Republic, the City Council, the Technical University, Montepio Geral and the Mário Soares Foundation, in Lisbon - as well as in private collections; tiles, which can be found at the headquarters of the Caixa Geral de Depósitos (in Lisbon), at the Fogueteiro railway station (in Seixal), at the local market (in Bragança), at the local library (in Carrazeda de Ansiães), at the Caixa de Crédito Agrícola and the local theatre (in Bragança), at the Belarus underground station (in Moscow), at the Astrophysics centre and the Porto Planetarium, at the Rinchoa viaduct (in Rio de Mouro) and at the Vilar de Frades hydro electrical plant (in Vieira do Minho); cenographies for the play The Screens, by Jean Genet, at the Experimental Theatre - a play staged by Carlos Avillez; cenography and costumes of Shakespeare's “Richard III”, also staged by Carlos Avillez, at the D. Maria II National Theatre; and ilustrations for several writers and poets, including Manuel António Pina, José Saramago, António Alçada Baptista, Pedro Tamen, Nuno Júdice, Clara Pinto Correia, José Fernandes Fafe, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen and António Osório.
She lives and works in Lisbon and in the small town of Vieiro with her partner, the guitar player Pedro Caldeira Cabral. She admits that it is very difficult for her to separate from her works, so she is probably the largest collector of her own paintings.
(Universidade Digital / Gestão de Informação, 2008)