|Aurélia de Souza
Maria Aurélia Martins de Souza was born in the city of Valparaíso, in Chile, on 13th June 1866. She was the fourth of seven children (six girls and one boy) born of the couple António Martins de Souza and Olinda Perez, Portuguese emigrants in Brazil and Chile.
In 1869 she returned with her family to Portugal. With the money they saved in Latin America, the family bought a farm, Quinta da China, on the north margin of the river Douro, close to Porto, where they settled. After her father died in 1874, her mother married again in 1880. Her second brother was born from this marriage.
Aurélia started her drawing and painting classes at the age of 16 with António da Costa Lima, a former disciple of Roquemont, and painted her first self-portrait in 1889. Four years later she and her sister Sofia de Souza (1870-1960) enrolled in Historical Drawing at the Porto Academy of Fine Arts. She sat the first two years exams with her sister, and started attending the academy on a regular basis in October 1893, on the third year.
Between 1893 and 1896 she participated in several exhibitions, including: the Exhibitions of the Porto Academy of Fine Arts Students School Works Worth of Mention (from 1893 to 1896), the Fine Arts Exhibitions of the Ateneu Comercial do Porto (from 1893 to 1895) and other events organised by António José da Costa, Marques de Oliveira and Júlio Costa.
In the academic year 1896-1897 she accomplished the first and second year of the Historical Painting course, at the Porto Academy of Fine Arts. In 1897-1898 she accomplished the third year with a final grade of 16 out of 20. In October 1898 she enrolled in the fourth year, but did not finish it.
In 1899, lacking a state grant, but with the financial support of her older sister, Helena Souza Dias (who was married to José Augusto Dias), she departed to Paris. During the three years that she lived in Paris, she attended courses by J. P. Laurens and B. Constant at the Julien Academy, she exhibited and sold some of her works, sent studies to the master Marques de Oliveira so that he could assess her progress in art and travelled to Britany. In 1900 she painted her famous self-portrait, in which she is wearing a red coat that nowadays belongs to the Soares dos Reis National Museum. Contrary to her first self-portrait, this painting is neither signed, nor dated. By then, her sister and artist Sofia de Souza joined her in France, with the support of another sister, Maria Estela de Souza (who was married to Vasco Ortigão Sampaio). They both started attending that Academy in 1900-1901. In 1902, before returning to Portugal, the two sisters travelled in Europe, where they visited Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain. They visited several museums, which arouse Aurélia's taste for Flemish painting.
In 1907 she was invited by António Teixeira Lopes to preside over the Porto Society of Fine Arts, but she declined the invitation. In the years that followed, she participated in the annual exhibitions of the Porto Society of Fine Arts (from 1909 to 1911), she exhibited at the Misericórdia (1908-1909 and 1911-1912) and the Palácio de Cristal (1917 and 1933) Galleries, in Porto, and at the National Society of Fine Arts, in Lisbon (from 1916 to 1921).
In 1921 she terminated her membership of the Porto Society of Fine Arts, as a two-fold protest against the rise of the membership fees and the lack of an exhibition room.
Besides her job as a painter, Aurélia worked on illustrations for the magazine Portugália, Materiais para o Estudo do Povo Português (1899-1905), Elegia Pantheista a uma Mosca of M. Duarte de Almeida (1874-1889) - works which were never published - and for the short story book Perfis Suaves, written by Júlio Brandão.
Aurélia, who had a feeble health, died at home in Quinta da China, on 26th May 1922, at the age of 55. She was one of the few Portuguese women who, in her own right, earned a place at the gallery of great Portuguese painters of the second half of the 19th Century, together with other renowned artists, such as Marques de Oliveira, Henrique Pousão or António Carneiro. Her work, which was often criticised by her contemporaries as flower painting, is made of several different themes, such as portraits (her favourite genre - whether self-portraits, family portraits, etc.), landscapes (sketches or finished, resulting from her journeys, inspired by her house or by the rural Porto) and daily scenes that depict, in tenebrist interiors, children or women doing their domestic tasks.
(Universidade Digital / Gestão de Informação, 2008)