The surrealist drawings of Julio

Curators' Choices: Patricia Rosas highlights drawings by Julio.
08 oct 2020

Júlio dos Reis Pereira (1902–1983) trained as an engineer, but also attended classes at the School of Fine Arts in Porto of his own volition. He began his artistic practice with drawing and contributed to the first issue of the magazine Presença in 1927, signing his works as Julio.

After his first solo exhibition at the SNBA in Lisbon, in 1935, he abandoned painting, a technique he would only return to years later. He never gave up on drawing, paper or Indian ink. On the contrary, it is probably because of his intensive drawing work, especially during the 1930s, that he left behind the academicism of the day and embarked on a hunt for novelty. Repeating shapes, deformations, lines and movements, disciplining both gesture and hand, his surrealist drawings were part of an intense output dating from between 1935 and 1939.

In a way, Julio’s drawing anticipates Portuguese surrealism, of which two of the works belonging to the Modern Collection, dating from 1939, are examples. With a ‘brilliant oneirism,’ as mentioned by Valter Hugo Mãe, and the ‘exact conviction that the line can in itself be enough,’ as Vergílio Ferreira wrote, the artist absorbed the international surrealism that reached him through the publications and magazines he received, such as Minotaure and Documents, while creating a world that was very much his own featuring forms he fashioned himself.


Julio, Untitled, 1939. Indian ink on paper. Inv. DP580
Julio, Untitled, 1939. Indian ink on paper. Inv. DP579


Julio visited museums and exhibitions when he travelled to Paris, in 1933. Some decades later, in a letter to Cesariny, he mentioned the surrealist publications (e.g. La peinture au défi, by Aragon) that he was able to buy on this first trip to the French capital, and the magazines he leafed through during his time there. He also added that he had ordered, from Paris, Breton’s Le surréalisme et la peinture (in 1931) and the issue of the Belgian journal Sélection devoted to Chirico, ‘as he was unable to find them in the bookshops of Porto.’

Following the international modernist dynamic, whose visual intensity, rotation and rhythms he passionately researched, the work Untitled, belonging to the CAM Collection, also known as ‘Dialogue of the Masks,’ seeks to establish an equilibrium between the figures, as though triangulating them, albeit with different levels of perception in the composition of the drawing. The volume-less face or mask appears on either side of the composition, with a pot of Indian ink and a paintbrush on the top of a table. Interestingly, in the centre of the drawing we see the image of another drawing, Untitled, which also belongs to the MC; at the top of the image a painting hangs on the wall, depicting a landscape (could it be one of Julio’s paintings?). Do the two faces – or masks – represent the artist himself – painter and poet?

Both drawings were purchased from Julio, along with a series of other works, in 1980, the year of the artist’s retrospective exhibition in the temporary exhibition gallery of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Main Building.


View of the exhibition ‘"the image of you that I composed". Homage to Julio’. CAM, 2013


Julio’s work returned to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in 2013, in an exhibition organised with António Gonçalves, then artistic director of the Cupertino de Miranda Foundation: ‘a imagem que de ti compus.’ Homenagem a Julio (the image of you that I composed. Homage to Julio), which brought together works by Julio from the Cupertino de Miranda Foundation and the CAM, presented at the Gulbenkian Foundation’s Modern Art Centre. It was an opportunity to revisit the early decades of Júlio dos Reis Pereira’s career and delve deeper into the relationship between the poet Saúl Dias (the artist’s pseudonym) and Julio the painter.


Patrícia Rosas
Curator of the CAM

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