Quando a terra voltar a brilhar verde para ti at Museu da Cidade Porto – Romanticism Extension

Quando a terra a voltar a brilhar verde para ti initiates a new curatorial programme of the former Romantic Museum of Porto, proposing to think Romanticism, according to contemporaneity, as a trans-temporal and trans-historical spiritual constant. The exhibition project, curated by Nuno Faria, is based on the notion of the natural world as an enabler of Romantic literary and artistic production, carrying it over to present-day concerns, such as climate change, extinction or over-exploitation of the Earth’s natural resources. There is a need to think of the museum as a place of metamorphosis urgency, a place of constant experimentation and urgent reflection. The title, which sets the tone of the exhibition, is a verse by the German poet Hölderlin, within the Romantic thought. At the same time, it is a reference to the name of the film by filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet about the death of the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles, known for having developed the cosmogonic theory of the four classical elements. The exhibition materialises with the presentation Herbário [Herbarium] (1870) by Júlio Dinis in dialogue with other authors and artistic practices, the 19th-century house that lodges the museum extension and the gardens of the Crystal Palace, allowing us to question how we can rediscover and thematise nature as vital and relearn from the plant world in the current ecological crisis.

In the 19th century, in the face of the Napoleonic invasions and the fall of Napoleon’s Empire, which had social, economic and political consequences in the invaded countries, but also in Germany, France. After the failure of the revolution and its ideals, the Romantic movement arose in Europe, in a social and national crisis, an individual and collective trauma, with sadness and nostalgia. It was the German poet, critic and philosopher Friedrich Schlegel who first used the term Romantic in art, in 1798, choosing a French word derived from Romance, recalling medieval stories of love, gallantry or mystery as an alternative to Latin, going against the Greco-Roman inspired neoclassical thought. Then the German philosopher Hegel explored notions of subjectivism, mysticism and history as dialectical development of humanity; Goethe, one of the seminal authors of German literature and Romanticism, published The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), Faust (1790), or the Theory of Colours (1810); the German poet Novalis said that, by elevating a commonplace and dignifying the unknown, he was zit; the English poet P. B. Shelley wrote that artists should reveal their spirit more; and the French poet and critic Baudelaire argued that Romanticism was modern art, where artists expressed themselves through colour, spirituality and intimacy. The plural and polyphonic Romantic movement encompassed themes such as spirituality and faith, the celebration of physical love in approaching the divine, the joining of love and death for redemption, the idea of beauty in the depiction of the infinite, or love according to religion. The Romantics believed that emotion was above reason, having found in nature refuge for profound moments of self-discovery, a reflection of human qualities. The landscape merged with a sense of spirituality, innocence and truth, portrayed in largely symbolic abstractions of light or colour. One of his desires was to express emotions through nature. Here, painting as an abstract and symbolic medium, and above all poetry and music for their evocative and speculative qualities, were the primary languages for expressing subjectivities.

According to researcher and curator David Blayney Brown: «Like the Infinite it so often sought, the Romantic movement may seem to slip through our fingers. But to pursue it is richly rewarding, for while the contemporary contexts for its protest and passion have long since disappeared, its concepts of authenticity, integrity and inner truth remain relevant. They are fundamental to our concept, not only of art but also ourselves.»[1] Concluding that Romanticism, according to Friedrich Schlegel, “is […] a perpetual becoming without ever attaining perfection […] It alone is infinite, alone free; its first law is the will of the creator […] that knows no law».[2] The Romantic movement, regardless of whether it emerged in the spirit of an age, some of its precepts, such as authenticity, integrity or inner truth, remain relevant. When the earth shines green again for you, as the exhibition text indicates, is built with «altitudes and abysses, temperature differences, intensities and creative forces» through the «romantic experience of the world» as «condition, excessive, visionary and elegiac». This gesture is translated by the presentation of Júlio Dinis’ Herbário (1870), alongside other practices and artists such as Rui Chafes, Ilda David, Teixeira de Pascoaes, Manuel Rosa, Lourdes Castro and José Almeida Pereira. There are five sections or states of mind, with different environments and colour codes, around a sound sculpture by Jonathan Uliel Saldanha and Pedro Monteiro.

When we enter the City Museum – Romanticism Extension[3], we see devices that look like open books, revealing the Herbário (1870) by Júlio Dinis, which guides us throughout the exhibition experience. In the first room, we find drawings by Ilda David, from the series Grutas (1997), based on Goethe’s sketches from one of his trips to Italy, surrounded by 18th/19th-century paintings; in the second room, we see drawings by Rui Chafes and a mural painting by José Almeida Pereira, based on Goethe’s Rose of Temperaments (1798-1799). We continue our journey into room 3, where, through J. A. Pereira, we see silhouettes of plants on cut-out paper by Philip Otto Runge. In the following rooms, there are murals by the same author according to The Tree of Knowledge No. 1, Series W (1913) by Hilma af Klint and Work No. 172 by Emma Kunz, artists of the spiritualist movements of the 19th century, subjects such as Theosophy, Hermeticism or Anthroposophy.

As we climb the stairs that take us to the first floor, we find another environment steeped in orange and Yeux Clos I,II,III (1994) by Chafes, the Portuguese artist of sublime German Romanticism. We enter the room dedicated to Teixeira de Pascoaes, one of the greatest Portuguese Romantic writers, and discover his watercolours on paper, where nature, ghosts and the spirits of Marão reveal themselves before us. After that, we are enveloped by the Sombras series around a centre (1985) by Lourdes de Castro, observing another expression resulting from the observation of the natural world. Next, the series Nie Wieder (1990-91) by Chafes shows drawings of several important figures from German Romanticism, as well as torn women and disfigured bodies in a kind of dialectical montage. In the next room, there is a sculpture by Manuel Rosa about solitude and silence. Finally, in the hall, there is a space dedicated to the performing arts with a romantic musical repertoire and two more wall paintings by J. A. Pereira, according to The Sea of Ice (1823-1824) by Caspar David Friedrich and The Death of Empedocles (c.1665-1673) by Salvator Rosa. It is a deeply romantic gesture, as is Chafes’ sculpture O Silêncio de Giorgio De Chirico (2011), which, like a pendulum, has weight and lightness. Quando a terra voltar a brilhar verde para ti is accompanied by a sound sculpture by Jonathan Uliel Saldanha and Pedro Monteiro, composed of sounds of bells and organ, as well as references to Romantic authors ruled in three movements, with transitions and an apogee. The love filter is evoked, a reference to the final moment of Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde – Liebestod, or love and death for redemption. Like the exhibition, a chorus of voices of the living and the dead are heard.

Quando a terra voltar a brilhar verde para ti is the first moment of the City Museum – Romanticism Extension, in a new relationship with this artistic movement, going beyond its historical time. A museum that, like Júlio Dinis’ Herbário, is something alive, where we see its author’s gestures, as Nuno Faria demonstrates: «Phantasmagoria, an object that reveals itself almost magically in the way it defies natural laws and the passage of time, made by the very hands of the writer, of the artist […]»[4]. The museum extension will have a permanent exhibition, with works from the museum collection, which will metamorphose seasonally, in addition to a programme with temporary exhibitions, like a musical score built with its variables.

Quando a terra voltar a brilho verde para ti is at Museu da Cidade Porto – Romanticism Extension, in Porto, until February 27.


[1] Brown, D. B. (2001). Romanticism. London: Phaidon Press Limited. p. 16.

[2] Ibid. p. 409.

[3] More here.

[4] Faria, N. (2021). «O mundo elevado a abismo» in Dinis, J. (2021). Herbário – Filices. pp. 5-6. Lisboa: Documenta | Sistema Solar.

Ana Martins (Porto, 1990) currently working as a researcher at i2ADS – Instituto de Investigação em Arte, Design e Sociedade, with a fellowship granted by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (2022.12105.BD) to atende the PhD in Fine Arts at Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade do Porto. Already holding a MA in Art Studies – Museological and Curatorial Studies from the same institution. With a BA in Cinema from ESTC-IPL and in Heritage Management by ESE-IPP. Also collaborated as a researcher at CHIC Project – Cooperative Holistic view on Internet Content, supporting the incorporation of artist films into the portuguese National Cinema Plan and the creation of content for the Online Catalog of Films and Videos by Portuguese Artists from FBAUP. Currently developing her research project: Cinematic Art: Installation and Moving Images in Portugal (1990-2010), following the work she started with Exhibiting Cinema – Between the Gallery and the Museum: Exhibitions by Portuguese Filmmakers (2001-2020), with the aim to contribute to the study of installations with moving images in Portugal, envisioning the transfer and specific incorporation of structural elements of cinema in the visual arts.

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