Monthly Archives: March 2017

Identities in Transit: Portuguese Women Artists since 1950

The Taylor Institution Library has mounted an exhibition (10-24 March 2017, subsequently extended to 31 March) to accompany the conference Transnational Portuguese Women Artists (Wadham College, 16-18 March 2017). The exhibition is curated by Dr Maria Luísa Coelho, Joanne Ferrari and Jessica Woodward. The exhibition catalogue is available here.

The purpose of the exhibition is to highlight the significant contribution of Portuguese women artists to Portuguese culture and beyond, from the perspective of their experiences, works, contacts and, ultimately, their impact within the transnational context. It focuses on a group of women who, from the 1950s, have created a wide-ranging body of work whilst living for extended periods outside Portugal. During their time abroad, these women established relationships and collaborations not only with other expatriate Portuguese artists but also with a wider European artistic community. The Taylorian’s exhibition displays publications primarily held by the Taylor Institution Library, showing the artistic production of Lourdes Castro, Menez, Paula Rego, Maria Velho da Costa and Ana Hatherly. The material on view highlights the tension between the terms roots and routes while also suggesting the connections between different moments and places, and the creation of identities in transit.

Snapshot of one exhibition case showing works by Paula Rego and Maria Velho da Costa.

Snapshot of one exhibition case showing works by Paula Rego and Maria Velho da Costa.

Lourdes Castro

Born in Madeira, in 1930, Lourdes Castro moved to Lisbon in 1950 and, following her expulsion (for “non-conformity”) from the Escola Superior de Belas Artes, she relocated to Munich in 1957 and then Paris in 1958. There, Castro was in close contact with the celebrated couple Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and Árpád Szenes. It was in Paris, where she lived for twenty-five years, that she co-founded the experimental group KWY with her husband René Bertholo and a number of other artists. (The letters K, W and Y were considered ‘foreign’ to Portuguese by the spelling reforms of 1943.)  During this period, the artist often visited London and met other Portuguese expatriates.

Lourdes Castro, exhibition catalogue, Galeria 111, Lisbon, c. 1970, with a poem by Helder Macedo; Lourdes Castro and Manuel Zimbro, “As Cinco Estações” (from “Teatro de Sombras”), performance held at Teatro Municipal do Funchal, Funchal, 14-15.07.1977

Lourdes Castro, exhibition catalogue, Galeria 111, Lisbon, c. 1970, with a poem by Helder Macedo; Lourdes Castro and Manuel Zimbro, “As Cinco Estações” (from “Teatro de Sombras”), performance held at Teatro Municipal do Funchal, Funchal, 14-15.07.1977

Lourdes Castro has developed a considerable body of work focusing on the shadow, through which she reassesses the relationship between the aesthetic object and its surrounding world. In 1962 she began working on her ‘projected shadow’ works. Beginning with collaged objects these developed into paintings of Castro’s and her friends’ projected shadows. From 1966 onwards – and in collaboration with Manuel Zimbro – Castro also formed the Teatro Ambulante de Sombras (Travelling Theatre of Shadows). Despite her development of this performative art form outside of Portugal Castro’s interest in radical experimentation is clearly rooted in the Portuguese avant-garde. Another avenue of exploration of the shadow was the ‘inventory’, for example O Grande Herbário de Sombras (1972), (“The Great Herbarium of Shadows”, a collection of shadows of botanical specimens). This herbarium reveals Castro’s profound interest in nature, a major influencing factor in her decision to return to Madeira in 1983.


Menez (1926-1995) had an exceptionally cosmopolitan existence. Although she did not undertake any formal artistic training, her travels and privileged background (which she shared, to a certain extent, with the other artists featured in this exhibition) allowed her to pursue an artistic career and overcome many of the constraints imposed on Portuguese women by the dictatorial regime of Oliveira Salazar.

The artist’s first exhibition was held at Galeria de Março, Lisbon, in 1954, and showed a collection of Menez’s gouaches selected by the poet Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. Menez remained a close friend of Sophia and other major Portuguese writers and artists such as Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Júlio Pomar, Mário Cesariny and António Ramos Rosa.

Despite the influence of the Paris School in her early work and her debt to Vieira da Silva, Menez chose to use a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation (1964-65 and 1969) to move to London. There, she was in contact with other cultural and aesthetic trends, and also became a central and often admired figure in the Portuguese expatriate milieu: she formed long-lasting friendships with the writers Alberto de Lacerda and Helder Macedo and the artists Victor Willing and Paula Rego. As a whole, her body of work is defined by a continuous process of change.

Exhibition catalogue, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, November-December 1990

Menez, exhibition catalogue, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, November-December 1990. Image shows: (25) Os Antepassados (1966), (26) Henrique VIII (1966), (28) Sem Título (Retrato de Mário Chicó) (1961), (27) Sem Título (Retrato de Arpad) (25.12.1961), (30) Sem Título (Auto-retrato) (25.12.1961), (29) Sem Título (Retrato de M. H. Vieira da Silva) (1961)

Paula Rego

Dame Paula Rego (1935-) was born in Lisbon. In 1951 she moved to London to study at the Slade School of Fine Art and became immersed in a lively artistic community attuned to creative activities around the world. She formed strong and close relationships with other Portuguese artists and writers living in London while never losing touch with developments back in Portugal. Rego returned to Portugal in 1957, where she lived intermittently with her husband, the British painter Victor Willing (1928-1988), and their three children. Partly prompted by the Portuguese revolution in 1974, the family returned permanently to London in 1976.

Rego’s transcultural position is reflected in her work, clearly evidenced through the influence of her Portuguese heritage as well as the impact of her life in London. Through this patchwork of references, Rego addresses the recurrent themes of asymmetric power relations and gendered experiences, as she revisits the national, religious and sexual politics of the country she left behind. She is not only one of the most respected artists working in Britain today, but also a household name in Portugal. In 2009, a museum dedicated to her work –­ Casa das Histórias ­– opened in Cascais. She continues to exhibit regularly both in Portugal and in Britain.

Photograph of Paula Rego painting Crivelli’s Garden at the National Gallery, while Artist in Residence, 1990 (source: Nicholas Willing)

Photograph of Paula Rego painting Crivelli’s Garden at the National Gallery, while Artist in Residence, 1990 (source: Nicholas Willing)

Maria Velho da Costa

Maria Velho da Costa (1938- ) is one of Portugal’s most experimental contemporary writers, perhaps best known to an international readership as one of the authors of New Portuguese Letters (Novas cartas portuguesas, Lisbon: Estúdios Cor, 1972). Her work is imbued with a spirit of de-centering and de-territorialisation through the creation of diverse characters, worlds, realities and dimensions that nevertheless coexist or intersect. Through continually pushing the boundaries of literary genres, she explores the possibilities of language in dialogue with other artistic media such as music and the visual arts. This de-centering process is also a reflection of the locations she has chosen to spend time in: she was briefly in Guinea-Bissau in 1973; in 1980 she moved to London, where she worked for about six years as Portuguese leitora at King’s College; after that she was appointed cultural attaché in Cape Verde (1988-89).

During her time in England Velho da Costa wrote and published the novel Lúcialima (1983) whose cover was illustrated by Paula Rego; and the compilation O Mapa Cor de Rosa: Cartas de Londres (1984), about life in London in the early 1980s. More recent works, such as Madame (2000) and Myra (2008) continue to display physical or psychological accounts marked by an interest in otherness and the intersecting of different worlds, realities and languages; they also show her collaborations with visual artists.

Maria Velho da Costa, Lúcialima (Lisbon: O Jornal, April 1983), cover by Paula Rego

Lúcialima, Maria Velho da Costa (Lisbon: O Jornal, April 1983), cover by Paula Rego

Ana Hatherly

Ana Hatherly (1929-2015) was born in Porto, moving to Lisbon at an early age. After undertaking formal musical training in Portugal, France and Germany, she took a degree in Modern Languages at the University of Lisbon. She then enrolled at the London International Film School (1971-74) and subsequently moved to the United States where she completed a doctorate in Golden Age Hispanic Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ana Hatherly, Dessins, Collages et Papiers Peints (Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian: Lisbon, 2005), exhibition catalogue, Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian, Paris, 6-15.12.2005

Ana Hatherly, Dessins, Collages et Papiers Peints (Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian: Lisbon, 2005), exhibition catalogue, Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian, Paris, 6-15.12.2005

A clear focus of Hatherly’s oeuvre is the relationship between word and image, already evident in her early works, produced while living in London. Her output from this period also exhibits the influence of Pop Art, a strong connection with the concrete-experimental movement, and her adoption of the collage technique. The artist’s visual exploration of text evolved into her visual poems, informed by her academic research on baroque poetry. In 1959 she began experimenting with concrete poetry. She soon became one of the leading figures in the Portuguese Experimental Poetry group, regularly contributing to avant-garde journals, edited collections and group exhibitions in Portugal and abroad.





Dr Maria Luísa Coelho
FCT Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Oxford/ Universidade do Minho

You can also see two videos of Maria Luísa and Luis Amorim de Sousa introducing and discussing the exhibition (links below, courtesy of Prof. Henrike Laehnemann).

Gysbert Japicx and the Junius collection

2016 marked the 350th anniversary of the death of the Frisian poet Gysbert Japicx (1603 – 1666). Seventeenth-century Frisia’s principal poet, Gysbert Japicx was crucial in preserving Frisian as a written language and in developing a Frisian spelling standard. His language is usually referred to as Middle Frisian (17th-18th century) although one could also call it Early Modern Frisian.

The earliest and most important items for the study of Gysbert Japicx’s oeuvre are held in the Junius Collection in the Bodleian Library. This unique collection includes the only known manuscript of his work, the poem Wobbelke and two extremely rare and fragile copies of ‘De Friessche Tjerne, ofte bortlijcke rijmlerye’: all three items are in Japicx’s own hand and were published anonymously in 1640.

Life and work

Gysbert Japicx was a school teacher and a poet in Boalsert, Fryslân (a province in the north of the Netherlands).  His first publication was the Friessche Tjerne, a rhyming text written for the entertainment of guests at a wedding. This type of publication was probably not meant to last, which may explain the poor quality of the paper and the fragile state of extant copies. His main work Friesche Rymlerye, published posthumously in 1668, contains mainly poetry and rhyming prose and also a few psalms. The oldest printed copy in Oxford is the 1821 edition held by the Taylorian.

Gysbert Japicx, Friesche Rymlerye. Taylor Institution Library VET.FRIS.6

Gysbert Japicx, Friesche Rymlerye. Taylor Institution Library VET.FRIS.6

Among Japicx’s earliest manuscripts held by the Bodleian is an early version of the touching lovesong Wobbelke, in Japicx’s own hand, presumably written for the love of his life whom he later married. This is the only poem in Gysbert Japicx’s own hand; all the other poems are copied from originals by Franciscus Junius.  Close-up images of these manuscripts can be seen in one of Omrop Fryslân’s (Frisian Television) documentaries on Gysbert Japicx. I had the honour to comment on camera. (The programme can be viewed at The manuscripts are shown approximately five minutes into the programme. The manuscript poems in the Bodleian Library were edited and provided with an English commentary by Alistair Campbell, (Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,1963-1974) who bequeathed his Frisian collection to the Taylor Institution Library.

Gysbert Japicx: The Oxford Text of Four Poems by Alistair Campbell Taylor Institution Library FRIS.4.D.JAP.2

Gysbert Japicx: The Oxford Text of Four Poems by Alistair Campbell. Taylor Institution Library FRIS.4.D.JAP.2

Gysbert Japicx has been hugely influential for the development of Frisian as a written language. He began writing in Frisian after a nearly one hundred year gap in which hardly any Frisian was written – the last charter in Old Frisian was written around 1550 – so head to invent a new spelling system as there was no previous one he could build on. The process of designing a new orthography was a gradual one. His earliest publication, De Friessche Tjerne, represents the first phase of development of a spelling standard of 17th century Frisian. The next phase is found in Junius’ handwritten copies of Japicx’s work, which in turn differs from the spelling used in the final publication of poems Rymlerye in 1668. The orthography developed by Japicx has been of great importance to the Frisian writing tradition and it was followed until the early 19th century.

Gysbert Japicx (1603-1666) and Franciscus Junius (1591-1677)

It is generally assumed that Junius visited Japicx to learn Frisian. This assumption is supported by the Japicx manuscripts, where we find both Japicx’s and Junius’ handwriting together.

The Japicx material consists of two manuscripts in the Junius collection, MS. Junius 115a and MS. Junius 122. MS. 115a is Junius’ glossary of Old Germanic. At the end of MS. 115a, after the glossary, some smaller pages are bound into the manuscript which contain poems by Gysbert Japicx in Junius’ hand. The big surprise is the inserted folio which has Japicx’s most well known poem Wobbelke. This piece of paper holds an early handwritten version of the poem with corrections by the author.

Wobbelke, MS. Junius 115a, f.527v

Wobbelke, MS. Junius 115a, f.527v

On the front of this page (f.527r), both Japicx’s and Junius’ hands are found, an indication that Junius did indeed visit Japicx to learn Frisian.  Japicx has written the days of the week in Frisian with Dutch translation, presumably for Junius’ benefit. Junius has written numerals in Frisian, perhaps dictated by Japicx, as might be expected of a Frisian language learner. His next task was copying Japicx’s poems. It is fortunate that he did so, since Junius’ copies are the only handwritten copies of those poems that survive.

MS. Junius 115a, f.527r

MS. Junius 115a, f.527r

The other manuscript is MS. Junius 122, containing two rare copies of his De Friessche Tjerne, glued into the manuscript above each other. Both versions were printed in 1640. On the second of these the publication details (in Dutch!) are accompanied by a translation into Frisian in Gysbert Japicx’s hand.

De Friessche Tjerne, MS. Junius 122

De Friessche Tjerne, MS. Junius 122

How did these manuscripts end up in the Junius collection in Oxford rather than in a Frisian Library? This has everything to do with Junius’ interest in Germanic languages. Born in Heidelberg, Junius was raised in the Netherlands and spent major parts of his adult life in England. He studied Frisian as a Germanic language before concentrating on Gothic and Old High German.  He began his Germanic studies by learning Frisian during his stay in Fryslan between 1646 and1648, where he visited Gysbert Japicx. Looking for a Frisian tutor, there was not a lot of choice: in the mid 1640s Japicx appeared to be the only one who was able to write Frisian. Copying texts, such as Japicx’s poems, seemed to be Junius’ method of learning a language. He took his copies with him when he returned to England, and spent the last two years of his life in Oxford. Junius knew Bodley’s Librarian, and before his death in November 1677 he gave his collection to the Bodleian Library. So the Junius collection is a donation rather than a bequest, as shown from the ‘deed of gift’ in the Bodleian archives.

Junius’ deed of gift, witnessed by Tho(mas) Marshall and Obad(iah) Walker. Library Records c. 1158, fol. 3r (detail), with thanks to Theodora Boorman, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Junius’ deed of gift, witnessed by Tho(mas) Marshall and Obad(iah) Walker.
Library Records c. 1158, fol. 3r (detail), with thanks to Theodora Boorman, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Dr Johanneke Sytsema, Subject Consultant for Linguistics, Dutch and Frisian


Munske, Horst Haider and Nils Århammar (eds). 2001. Handbuch des Friesischen= Handbook of Frisian studies. Tübingen : Max Niemeyer Verlag.

Taylor Institution Library PF1413 HAN 2001

Bremmer, Rolf H. (ed). 1998. Franciscus Junius F.F. and his circle. Amsterdam : Rodopi.

Taylor Institution Library DUTCH.146905.A.1

Sipma, P. 1932. Friessche tjerne, Gysbert Japicx ; mei ynleiding en oantekeningen fen P. Sipma. Boalsert : A.J. Osinga.

Taylor Institution Library FRIS.4.D.JAP.7

Japicx, Gysbert. 1821.  Friesche rijmlerye. 3. Druwck. op nijz trognoaze in forbettere trog E. Epkema. (3rd edition, checked again and corrected by E.Epkema). Ljeauwert : J. Proost.

Taylor Institution Library VET.FRIS.6

Japicx, Gysbert. Frieske rymlerije, yn trije delen forskaet : d’earste binne: Ljeafd en bortlike mingeldeutjes; ‘t oarde sinte: Gemiene ef Husmannepetaer en oare kalterije; ‘t efterste is Himelsk Harplud; dat is to sizzen utylike fen Davids Psalmen.

Taylor Institution Library FRIS.4.D.JAP.4

Feitsma, Antonia.1956. Frysk ut de 17de ieu : teksten en fragminten. Estrikken 15. Grins : Frysk Ynstitút oan de R.U. to Grins.

Taylor Institution Library FRIS.SER.1/11

Japicx, Gysbert. 1948. The Oxford text of four poems. Edition with a complete glossary by Alistair Campbell. Bolsward : A.J. Osinga.

Taylor Institution Library FRIS.4.D.JAP.2

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