João Artur da Silva

João Artur da Silva is a Portuguese born artist and photographer currently living in British Columbia, Canada.

Joao Artur da Silva
Joao Artur da Silva.jpg
Born5 October 1928
  • Maria de Lourdes (m. 1953; div. 1958)
  • Gillian Evans (m. 1962; div. 1969)
  • Raymonde da Silva (m. 1978; died 2017)


João Artur Cordeiro Da Silva was born October 5th, 1928 in Cascais, Portugal to Alfredo Lopes Da Silva, a businessman, and Georgina Cordeiro, the first female sculptor in the Lisbon Arts Academy.[1] At age 18, instead of joining his father's business, João Artur began drawing and painting. In the late 1940's, after participating in a number of collective art shows in Lisbon, he was introduced to Mario Cesariny, Cruzeiro Seixas and Antonio Maria Lisboa of the Lisbon Surrealist Group (Os Surrealistas)[2] by Mario-Henrique Leiria. Because of these connections, João Artur’s work was shown at the 1st Surrealist Exhibition in Lisbon in 1949.[3] He continued to exhibit with the Lisbon Surrealist Group through 1953. Many of the artists in this group were openly critical of the Salazar regime and João Artur’s affiliation with them made it difficult for him to obtain a passport until 1958. When he was finally able to leave the country, João Artur took up residency southwest of Manchester in a Wilmslow estate. There, he spent two years working towards a solo exhibition of his sculptures and paintings at the Woodstock Gallery in London.[4] In England, João Artur continued to exhibit at London’s Piccadilly Gallery, while pursuing new artistic mediums such as textiles. Some of his designs, which had been commissioned by Hull Stafford Ltd, were shown at the London Design Centre’s “Best Designs of 1960” exhibition.[5] That same year, several of João Artur’s paintings and sculptures were shown as part of the renowned Art Alive! Exhibition,[6]

At this time João Artur befriended Errol Jackson the husband of his co-exhibitor,[7] artist Jeanette Jackson. Errol Jackson, the official photographer of sculptor Henry Moore's work, taught João Artur to photograph his own art, a practice he continues.

In 1978, after several years living and exhibiting abroad, João Artur moved back to Portugal. In 1981 he held his first ‘Open Studio’ in Lisbon where he mounted a retrospective of his work from the past 23 years.[8]

In 2009 his sculpture “O Prisioneiro”,[9] which is one of two of his works in the permanent collection of the Gulbenkian, was shown in both the UK and Portugal as part of a collaboration between the Tate Gallery, St. Ives and the Centro de Arte Moderna of the Gulbenkian Foundation.

Da Silva moved to British Columbia, Canada in 1991 and became a Canadian Citizen in 2012.


João Artur started his artistic practice working with oils and gouache. During his time in England, he began to incorporate waterproof ink which allowed him to achieve a layered effect reminiscent of stained glass window panes. This technique, which he continued to develop throughout his career, gives his paintings a geometric aesthetic.

His sculptural practice has also evolved over the years, beginning with a focus on linear form and its expressive interplay with space.[10] By the 70’s these forms became more rounded and  recognizably human, a tendency that remained consistent in his work from that point on. The human forms of João Artur’s later sculptures are in contrast to the decidedly de-populated land and cityscapes of his paintings.[11]

Although João Artur began his career with the Lisbon Surrealists, his aesthetics are no longer aligned with typical surrealist techniques. Cruzeiro Seixas himself has admired his technical power in the change from sweetly curvilinear to angular, almost aggressive forms.[12] In 1960, João Artur caught the attention of the esteemed art critic, Eric Newton, who praised the sculptor and painter for his well-constructed works "based on sharp-edged triangles ingeniously interwoven and furnished with pleasantly variegated and discreet harmonies... [whose] underlying mathematical structure has a certain tension"[13]


  1. ^ “João Artur expõe pinturas esculturas no chiado,” Diário de Coimbra, Nov 4, 1990.
  2. ^ Avila, Maria Jesus and Perfecto E. Cuadrado. Surrealismo em Portugal 1934-1952. IPM Museu do Chiado, 2001, pp. 70-71, 337, 401.
  3. ^ 1a Exposição dos Surrealistas, (Lisbon, 1949), Exhibition catalogue.
  4. ^ “Famous Artist,” The Advertiser, Jan 15, 1960.
  5. ^ Hull Traders LTD (1960) “Time Present” Fabrics Aim High and Score High: Hull Traders’ New Autumn Collection of Ten Masterpieces of Textile Design and Printing [Press Release]. October
  6. ^ Art Alive!, (Northampton, 1960), Exhibition catalogue.
  7. ^ “Expressionnistes de Londres.” Journal de l’amateur d’art, April 10, 1960.
  8. ^ “João Artur expõe pinturas esculturas no chiado”
  9. ^ João Artur da Silva, “O Prisioneiro,” N.D. Aluminum and Steel. Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Updated 23 January, 2015.
  10. ^ Joaquim Matos Chaves, Master Professor of Arts at the University of Oporto, April 1990
  11. ^ Chaves, 1990.
  12. ^ Cruzeiro Sexias, Joao Artur: Muitos Diversos Horizontes, (Junta de Turismo da Costa Estoril, 1983), Exhibition catalogue.
  13. ^ Newton, Eric. The Guardian, February 3, 1960.