26 March 2021

The company of women

The choice of curator Patrícia Rosas is Mily Possoz, an artist that made her name through drawing, painting, printmaking and illustration.

Mily Possoz, Untitled (detail), undated. Modern Art Centre

In 2019, we organised a thematic itinerary devoted to women artists in what was at the time the semi-permanent display of the Modern Collection. This proposal included more than 100 works by 48 artists, organised chronologically, from 1916 to 2018, and by typology: paintings, drawings, textiles, photographs, videos, sculptures, installations. We made it a priority to show works from the collection by artists who, in general, had little exposure. With this in mind, I bring your attention to Mily Possoz (1888-1968), an ‘ironic and adventurous’ artist, as she was described by Emília Ferreira, who studied and exhibited Mily’s work.

 

Mily Possoz, Untitled, 1929. Modern Art Centre

 

A Portuguese artist of Belgian origin, Mily Possoz made her name through drawing, painting, printmaking and illustration. In 1905, Mily went to study in Paris, at the prestigious Académie de La Grande Chaumière, later continuing her studies in Germany with the printmaker Willy Spatz, an expert in drypoint. She also spent time in Holland and Belgium, returning to Portugal some years later. Her contact with the international art world allowed her to forge an artistic intimacy with Tsuguharu Foujita, a renowned Japanese printmaker who lived in Paris from 1913 to 1931, with whom she became friends and shared clear aesthetic and visual influences at a time when her work turned towards a more modernist perspective, seen in the characterisation of the oval faces or in the position of the female figures.

 

Mily Possoz, Untitled, undated. Modern Art Centre
Mily Possoz, ‘Jeune Portugaise’, undated. Modern Art Centre

 

This eastern influence can be seen clearly in the work ‘Untitled’. The colour is distributed with skill across the paper: the black of the hair stands out in the composition and the dark blue of the bracelet contrasts against the white skin; the colours in the background define the shape of the woman in the foreground, rather than producing any great sense of depth, although there is clearly a spatial sensitivity. The lilac of the lips and skirt is soft and diluted. The hand holding the fan rests on the arm wrapped around the midriff. The gaze is absent.

With urban and cosmopolitan influences, and using diverse techniques, the works of Mily Possoz reveal a swift draughtswoman and an expert in the art of printmaking. Women were one of the central themes in her work: peasant women, working women, but also aristocrats, in public spaces or domestic interiors, in action or at rest.

Indeed, her drawing work reveals great skill in depicting the female figure and the emphasis given to colour, highlighting details such as accessories or physiognomic features (for example hair, bracelet or hat).

Of the female modernist artists, she was probably the one who exhibited internationally the most, speaking several languages fluently and managing her own promotion and marketing. In this sense, too, Mily transcended her time and Portuguese culture, introducing eastern influences and techniques that were rarely seen in the artistic creation of the day in Portugal.

 

Patrícia Rosas
Curator of the Modern Art Centre