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he Adoption of the
Art Nouveau Movement
ART NOUV E AU by the
Local Bourgeoisie
The appearance of Art Nouveau works in
Aveiro dates from the beginning of the 20th
century, more specifically 1904-1920. The
construction of such new style buildings was
often reported in local newspapers. It was then
known as the Aveiro Style, as the broader Art
Nouveau movement in Europe, along with its
philosophy and applications in architecture
and the decorative arts, was not fully understood. Indeed, the term Art Nouveau was
tion. The underlying concept of this phenomenon is ostentation, one of the main characteristics of Art Nouveau in Aveiro.
The nineteenth century in Aveiro began with
serious economic and social problems caused
by bottlenecks resulting from the silting up of
the river bar, which seriously affected the
movement of goods and people. The situation
was only resolved in 1808, but the desired
economic recovery did not follow as quickly as
czyli kotek
applied in Aveiro in a somewhat naive fashion,
concentrating mainly on the decorative
aspects of façades. We have to understand that
the Art Nouveau style was imported by a conservative bourgeoisie and wealthy emigrants to
Brazil, who, upon returning to Portugal,
focused on expressing their social and economic power. Art Nouveau elements were
thus present in the main façades of buildings,
while the rest of the construction and interiors
followed a conservative structure and decora182 zadzebiscie
expected. The national scene at the time reflected a serious lack of confidence, owing
variously to the independence of Brazil, the
spread of liberal ideas, the civil war, and
successive economic crises. To repair the river
bar it became necessary to carry out various
sorts of work that would make it possible to
control the tides and enable accessibility. In
this project, it was decided to use the stone
obtained from the demolition of the remains
of the late-medieval wall.
Perspective from
Aveiro City Center,
depicting two
Art Nouveau buildings
The Art Nouveau-influenced buildings
of Aveiro employ the systematic use of
decorative stone and wrought iron,
but above all, the tile, which made
the region unique since the local
Fábrica da Fonte Nova produced various
tile panels in this style.
However, though the work on the bar facilitated the movement of goods, it negatively
affected the local marine fauna, with significant decreases in profits from fishing. Moreover, the lack of communication to the interior and the shortage of local industries led
to the progressive economic decline and decay
of the city, visible in the decrease of population and migration to the neighbouring cities
and rural parishes.
Against this background, a radical policy to
improve communications was seen to be
fundamental to the recovery of the region.
Since 1864, the city has been able to rely upon
the rail system that allows rapid connections
with Coimbra, Lisbon, and Porto. Simultaneously, some industrial development took
place, especially in the field of ceramics, and
the Fábrica Fonte Nova, with its production
of Art Nouveau tiles, was established in 1882.
The rise of Aveiro as the regional capital
would also cause new concerns about the management of urban space, with the building of
modern facilities for the military (two barracks), for health care (Hospital da Misericórdia) and for administrative purposes. This outbreak of construction would ultimately benefit the field of education with the building of
a school (1851, currently the Escola Secundária Homem Cristo) and the School of Industrial Design (1893), directed for forty years by
Francisco Augusto da Silva Rocha, one of the
exponents of Art Nouveau in Aveiro.
The advent of Art Nouveau buildings in the
city is related to this period of urban growth
and prosperity. The first expression of the new
style in Aveiro was the construction of the
Cinco Bicas fountain, which dates from 1880.
However, the style only clearly made an impact
on the city from around 1904. The adoption
of Art Nouveau taste in Aveiro can be traced
artiles. …
in terms of the local newspaper reports carried
by Campeão das Províncias. In 1903 the paper
speaks of … a growing fever of buildings throughout
the county. There is no meeting of the City Council in
which does not appear a dozen or more applications
requesting licenses and permits for works, large and
small, and thus we have no means of coping with the
manufacturers of Esgueira adobe nor the factories of
Marseillaise tiles. …
These stories suggest the outbreak of urban
construction Aveiro experienced at this time
and, two years later, the same paper reported
new and more specific news concerning the
construction of the Residência Francisco
Augusto da Silva Rocha, and in 1908, of the
Casa Mário Belmonte Pessoa:
- [Aveiro] is taking on a more civilized garb, because,
lately, houses have been built of beautiful appearance,
Mário Pessoa
Art Nouveau
such as those of Mr. Francisco Augusto da Silva
Rocha, distinguished director of the School of
Industrial Design.
- The new building that the capitalist, Mr. Mário
Belmonte Pessoa, has built in Rossio, is the most
modern and distinctive that has so far been completed.
That the term capitalist is used to describe Mário Belmonte Pessoa shows that the style was
imported into the city not only by the wealthy
bourgeoisie - merchants and industrialists - but
also by newly arrived immigrants from Brazil the returnees. This process, similar to what occurred in the rest of the country, came to play
a significant role in the development of the Art
Nouveau movement at local level. It should be
understood that buildings in the Art Nouveau
style are usually private houses, occasionally
associated with a commercial activity. In the
case of such exceptions, Art Nouveau details
were applied to older buildings having commercial premises on the ground floor. Examples are the Antiga Sapataria Miguéis and the
Casa Espanhola.
The Art Nouveau-influenced buildings of
Aveiro employ the systematic use of decorative stone and wrought iron, but above all, the
tile, which made the region unique since the
local Fábrica da Fonte Nova produced various
tile panels in this style. To a lesser extent, the
Fábrica dos Santos Mártires also contributed
to tiles of this kind. The use of tile on the façades could be orthodox, in friezes for example,
or could take on a more active role, as is the
case in the Antiga Cooperativa Agrícola and in
the Francisco Rebelo dos Santos building. The
tile appears also as an Art Nouveau-inspired
decorative element in conventional buildings.
Often the tiles are the only Art Nouveau element present in a building. Tiles were common
in traditional Portuguese construction because
they were affordable to the general public and
enabled the water-proofing and embellishment of houses, normally built of adobe. One
example can be seen in the Lilies House, in the
traditional fishermen's neighbourhood of
Aveiro. Looking at this small house, we can see
how local people would have appreciated the
floral motives, even without understanding
what Art Nouveau was or that the chosen tiles
and panels were Art Nouveau in style.
The Art Nouveau movement in Aveiro is
characterised by:
Diversity in the formal quality of the house
"Application" of Art Nouveau façades in
otherwise conventional buildings - there is
a clear distinction between the innovative
fronts and the conventional interiors.
Art Nouveau decoration expressed through
tiles, ironwork, and stone work.
Persistence of traditional decorative elements,
continuous influence of the aesthetic from
eighteenth century revivalism.
Cooperative Building,
Lack of knowledge in the use of new building
materials and techniques - the houses were
built in "adobe".
Narrow façades due to the construction of
the houses in the city centre caused a vertical
development of the decoration.
The production of Art Nouveau tiles occupies
a relevant place in the context of the Art
Nouveau movement in Portugal, and especially in Aveiro. Between 1903 and 1920, the
ceramic factories produced several Art Nouveau tiles, destined to embellish the fades of
several buildings, and in some cases the interiors as well. This phenomenon of the Portuguese Art Nouveau was ignored by art historians for many years, with very scarce references being made to the tiles and mainly referencing the presence of some examples from
other countries. However, if the Art Nouveau
movement found some resistance in Portugal,
the Art Nouveau tiles soon were a popular
phenomenon, and we can find Art Nouveau
tiles in houses with no other Art Nouveau
characteristics. We can, therefore, conclude
that it was through the Art Nouveau tile production and use that the Art Nouveau movement acquired increased visibility in the
The motives that were used in the tiles were the
ones mainly used in the Art Nouveau movement plants and flowers, birds, insects, feminine figures. Although, in Portugal, Art Nouveau maintained a naturalistic tradition, in the
tile production the influence from abroad was
more relevant, mainly in the production of the
Sacavém Factory. The flower motives are by
far the best represented. A very popular representation at the time was the flower seen from
behind, showing the connection between the
stem and the chalice. The floral motives showcase different levels of stylization, frequently
linked with the painting technique used. The
tracing and hand painting give the drawing a
more naturalistic approach, while the stamping
and airbrushing confers the motives a more
graphic and linear interpretation, with clear
contours and where the colour prevails over
the details.
Tile Frieze,
Tile Panel
in the
Lilies House,
With regard to the articulation of the tile use Unknown
with the building architecture, the Art Nouveau movement became popular at a time
when it was common to cover the building
façades with tiles, so in many cases the factories just had to adapt the motives of the tiles
to the new taste. When a building was being
conceived by a designer such as Ernesto Korrodi, Silva Rocha, Ventura Terra or Norte Junior there was a concern in harmonizing the
tiles with the stone and ironwork, and with the
general outline of the façade. In this scenario,
the tiles are made to order, and are normally
As Américas,
signed and dated. However, the more common scenario is to use Art Nouveau tiles in
buildings of very simple design, just choosing
the tiles from the factory catalogues. In this
case, normally, the tiles are adapted to pediments, friezes, and small panels surrounding
windows or under the balconies.
Of all the factories producing tiles in Portugal,
only some produced Art Nouveau tiles. In
Lisbon, Manuel Joaquim Afonso founded the
Sacavém Factory in 1856, but its acquisition in
1861 by the Englishman John Stott Howorth
would influence all of the production. Howorth and the succeeding owners (James and
Raul Gilman, Herbert and Clive Gilbert), all of
English nationality, maintained strong commercial partnerships in England, from where
they imported materials and machinery, but
also paints, catalogues, plates, moulds, etc. The
factory Minton & Co, located on Stoke-onTrent, also influenced the Sacavém produc186 glass.
tion, as there was a strong collaboration in
terms of information and technology. It is not
surprising that the Sacavém production would
go on to display a strong English influence.
The tile production initiated in 1890, and
thanks to its mechanical production, the Sacavém factory produced tiles used in the
façades all over the country. The tiles were
produced by pressing a mixture of white clay
and ground quartz. Through this process
a white square was obtained, over which the
designs were applied and later covered with
transparent glass.
Concerning the Art Nouveau tiles, besides
several flat patterns or with half-relief, this factory produced a great variety of decorative
panels and friezes. A substantial number of
these compositions, especially those of strong
naturalistic influence, were hand painted,
and the contours were sometimes obtained
through stamping. This factory also used
airbrushing and tracing techniques. The mechanical stamping required the use of an individual stamp for each colour, while the tracing
technique permitted the application of a single
polychromatic stamp, which allows for an
easier and faster production. The relief tiles
were obtained through pressing the ceramic
material in a mould. They could then be
painted under the glaze, or more frequently
glazed with coloured glass. The coloured glass
would sink into the depressions of the tile,
thus adding to the relief effect.
The most original Art Nouveau tiles were
without a doubt produced in the Rafael
Bordalo Pinheiro Factory, in Caldas da Rainha.
They used a handcrafted technique of pressing red clay into moulds and then applying,
also by hand, coloured glazes and enamels.
Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro's position regarding
Art Nouveau was quite ambiguous, because
eau tiles.
after mocking the movement, he later came to
adopt it, producing some of the most original
Art Nouveau tiles.
Founded in 1882 by the Melo Guimarães
brothers, the Fonte Nova Factory in Aveiro
was the main tile producer in the Aveiro district. This factory developed an individual style, with very specific designs (the main painters
were Francisco Pereira and Licínio Pinto) and
use of colour - predominantly green, purple,
yellow and pink. The more frequent compositions were purple lilies over a yellow background. A fire in 1937 destroyed this factory.
The preferred technique used by the Fonte
Nova factory was hand painting and stamping
with hand painted finishing touches.
Tile Panel
from the
Fonte Nova
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guide with 264 illustrations, New York, Dover Publications.
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(2001). História da Arte ocidental e portuguesa, das origens ao final do século
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Rodrigues Manuel Ferreira (1996). Francisco Augusto da Silva Rocha,
1864-1957: Professor, Arquitecto e Gestor. Achegas para a sua Biografia.
Boletim Municipal de Cultura, no 28, Aveiro, Câmara Municipal de
Aveiro, pp. 47-58.
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Marie-Madeleine (2006). Un Ensemble Art Nouveau: La Donation
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