Júlio Pomar was born in Lisbon, in Janelas Verdes Street, in 1926.
He painted since he was a child, from the moment he was offered a box of water-colours by his uncle Bernardino. At the age of eight, a family relative who was a sculptor saw that he had talent and made him attend, as an independent student, the drawing classes at the António Arroio Industrial School (Applied Art). In his teenage years and until 1941, he studied at this school and prepared his admission to the Lisbon School of Fine Arts, which he attended between 1942 and 1944.
His first exhibition was held in 1942, in the workshop where he worked. He was then invited by Almada Negreiros to participate in the 7th Modern Art Exhibition of the National Secretariat of Propaganda/National Secretariat of Information (SPN-SNI).
In 1944, he transferred to the Porto School of Fine Arts. In this city, he began to write for the newspapers A Tarde, Seara Nova, Vértice, Mundo Literário and Horizonte and participated in the artistic movement "Os Convencidos da Morte" [those convinced of death], as opposed to the famous "Os Vencidos da Vida" [those defeated by life], an important group in the history of Portuguese literature at the end of the 18th century.
In the post-2nd World War period, Júlio Pomar was influenced by Neo-Realist writers such as Alves Redol and Soeiro Pereira Gomes, and also by plastic artists such as the Brazilian painter Cândido Torquato Portinari and the Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, who inspired him to use art as a form of socio-political intervention.
Pomar then became a strong opponent of the fascist regime. He joined the Movimento de Unidade Democrática (MUD) [Movement of Democratic Unity] and participated in the students struggles, which cost him his expulsion from ESBAP. His political activity also influenced his painting - in works such as O Gadanheiro, shown in 1945 at the National Society of Fine Arts, in the texts he published in newspapers, in which he defended Neo-Realist aesthetics, and in sponsoring the 1st Spring Festival, in Ateneu Comercial do Porto, in 1946.
In 1947, he organized his 1st solo drawing exhibition in Porto. In the meantime, the mural painting he had worked on for Cinema Batalha was ruined by PIDE [the secret police].
Soon after he left Porto and headed to the capital, where he was imprisoned for four months and had his painting Resistência confiscated at the 2nd General Plastic Arts Exhibition, held at the National Society of Fine Arts in 1947.
In an exhibition held at the National Society of Fine Arts in 1950, Pomar exhibited important paintings, such as O Almoço do Trolha, Menina com um Gato Morto, Varina Comendo Melancia or O Cabouqueiro, denoting Neo-Realist influences, even though they announce a new type of painting, stripped of political meaning.
In that same year, he travelled to Spain, where he studied the work of Goya, who later influenced his paintings Maria da Fonte and Cegos de Madrid, dated 1957.
In 1952, the Março Gallery exhibited his drawings, water-colours, gouaches and ceramic work.
Subsequently, Pomar produced portraits of intellectuals such as Mário Dionísio and Maria Lamas, and in 1953 he joined the Ciclo de Arroz, a group experience involving Alves Redol, Rogério Ribeiro, Cipriano Dourado and António Alfredo, a group of artists who sought, in the rice fields of Ribatejo, models to inspire their paintings.
In 1956, together with artists such as José Júlio and Rogério Ribeiro, he founded the cooperative Gravura, to produce and disseminate graphic works, where he remained until 1963. From then on, the movement became the hallmark of his painting, visible in works such as Pescadores.
In 1960, he produced thirty black and white small paintings to illustrate the D. Quixote, version by Aquilino Ribeiro, a theme which he used in other paintings and sculptures. In that same year, he began the series Tauromaquias.
From 1963 on, he settled in Paris for many years. The horse race track of Auteuil, near his Paris workshop, inspired the series Les Courses shown at the Lacloche Gallery, where he had exhibited Tauromachies, in 1964.
Influenced by the contesting movement of May 68, he produced a series of paintings on that theme. He abandoned oil paintings and began using acrylic. Until 1975, Pomar focused mostly on portraits, using saturated colours and geometrics.
Pomar lived the 1974 revolutionary movement in Lisbon, where he lived. On 10 June, along with other artists he participated in the production of a commemorative panel celebrating the fall of the regime.
In 1983, he exhibited the series entitled Os Tigres, at the 111 Gallery, in Lisbon. In 1984, he decorated the Alto dos Moinhos Lisbon underground station with panels on four poets with close ties to the city (Camões, Bocage, Fernando Pessoa and Almada Negreiros).
In 1988, he stayed two months in Mato Grosso, Brazil, to attend the filming of "Kuarup", directed by Ruy Guerra. Living with the Alto Xingu Indians, during his stay in the region, inspired yet another series of works.
In the 90s, he exhibited his work in Spain, France, Belgium, Brazil, China and Portugal, where, among other items, he showed the works produced between 1958 and 1960, for D. Quixote by Aquilino Ribeiro, an anthology of works done until 1963, and the work D. Quixote e os Carneiros.
In the subsequent years, he continued to exhibit his work in anthology and retrospective exhibitions at the Sintra Modern Art Museum, at Centro Cultural de Belém, in Lisbon, at the Contemporary Modern Art Museum of Serralves, in Porto, and at the Neo-Realism Museum, in Vila Franca de Xira.
In 2004 he established a foundation with his name, which was inaugurated later in 2013 by the Lisbon City Council, at number 7 of Vale Street, with an architectural rehabilitation project by Siza Vieira.
Júlio Pomar is one of the most distinguished Portuguese artists abroad, the author of many drawings, paintings, illustrations, collages, assemblages, ceramic works, tapestries, sculptures and scenography work (for three plays by Graça Lobo, based on the writings of Sister Mariana Alcoforado, James Joyce and Miguel Esteves Cardoso). The work he has produced over fifty years has been influenced by his many travels and artists he admired, such as Goya, Matisse, Ingres and the Mexican muralists.
Unlike many of his peers, he does not have a degree and did not follow a university teaching career, nor has he become part of any political power. He lives between Lisbon and Paris.
He is known to be independent, generous, to have a great sense of humour, but is not very fond of mediocrity.
Júlio Pomar died on May 22, 2018, in Lisbon, at the age of 92.
(Universidade Digital / Gestão de Informação, 2008)