Olivier de Sagazan || Transfiguration


Mário Eloy, a portuguese artist born in 1900, belonged to the first genaration of modernists who led a tragic, misunderstood life. He started his artistic career as a cenographer, later moving to Paris where he became inebriated in the modernist movement and endeavours. But it was his moving to Berlin, in 1927, that would dictate his major artistic influence.

From a naïve cubism that didn’t really work its way through, Eloy reaches an expressionism that is born out of anonymous masks of African influence, expressive brushstrokes that defigure the body and a dark theme that antecipates the social tragedy of the year of 1933. There, he married and had his first child, but upon leaving Germany in that same year, he would never see his wife and child again, who would later escape into Holland and eventually get sent into a concentration camp.

Several accounts described him as ‘the drunk’, mostly because of his peculiar way of talking, walking and his manneirisms, and also as influenced by an earlier boemian lifestyle. But it was revealed in 1940 this was due to the artist suffering from Hungtinton’s disease, which would haunt him into his death.

A troubled man, Eloy poured the ghosts of his past and present into the canvas in the phantasmagorical way of Chagall and the grotesque visualization of George Grosz, the latter with whom he collaborated Der Querschnitt. Bailarico (first picture, 1936) shows a common street dancing festivity in the streets of Lisbon, by the river, wherethe faces are transformed into anonymous masks put into a cold, detached scenario, turning the whole scene into the exact reverse of it: a rather tenebrist scene. The Poet and the Angel (1938, second picture) is a rather clear vision of what the artist had been through after separating from his wife and child, on the run from the nazi government. The green, decaying body was described earlier, in regards to other similiar paintings, by Raoul Leal-Henoch as «green of rotting with gangrene stains», admitting his paintings were «forjed in hell, sinister hallucinations of a fantastic Other World, orchestrated by Satan».

The third painting, entitled View From My Window (1938) has a more macabre story behind. Recent x-ray analyzis revealed another painting underneath, something that was usual of Eloy to do. Originally comissioned by a friend as a portrait of his daughter, Eloy promptly sketched what would be, for all artistic convensions, a portrait of a little girl, but instead presented this: the little girl’s funeral. It is uncertain why.

Mário Eloy died in 1951. He never lived to see the fame he would later recieve.