Already in the first decades of the last century, in Amarante, had been taken over the nineteenth century idea of a library to which is added the surplus value of a Museum.There were obvious cultural justifications like the fact of been living in a land with strong personalities like Pascoaes, António Cândido, Augusto Casimiro and António Carneiro.
With the extinction of the religious orders in the first half of the century. XIX, were laicized the gaps of the Dominican Convent of S.Gonçalo de Amarante, getting only committed to the parish the church and the annexed vestry.
Mainly assigned to the municipality, in the Convent were successively installed the Town Hall, the Court, Post and Telegraph offices, a military site, government offices, butchers and warehouses, the School, the School of the Village, the theater (and later the cinema) and even some families, with its daily grind.
In 1938 there was a fire on the Cinema installed in the Chapter Room, with space attached and expressly open door on the terrace, at the east wing, that event boosted a new awareness of the reuse of spaces.
Then, Lieutenant Colonel Costa Santos, president of the City Administrative Commission, at the meetting of 20th January of 1938, will propose that "Amarante deserves to have [...] a public library [...] as well as a museum [...] on which collects and saves what the City Hall may obtain [...] like art as a value or element of study for the knowledge in the various modalities of this municipality. And it seems that for such purpose no other part of the municipal building lends itself better, for its size and its location [...] than that in which was the cinema that have just burned. "
In the Convent's building remained installed yet in late 1941 Vila's male school, "Having a clear disadvantage for education" and facing the "lack of installations for the development of the cultural part, like the library and museum".
It is in this atmosphere of euphoria,caused by the end of the war and sensitive picture of some municipal progress, that at the meeting of 17th January of 1946, Dr.Albano Sardoeira communicates to Peixoto e Cunha the creation of the Grupo dos Amigos da Biblioteca Museu Municipal, with a list of 200 subscribers, applauding this initiative and promising a quick installation of the Library.
In June 1947, the General Director of the Public Treasury, Dr.António Luís Gomes said that the classification as a National Monument does not cover the entire building of the Convent where they wanted to install the museum but only the church and the cloister, in December of that same year, Peixoto e Cunha presented in the City Hall came up with a proposal for the creation of the Municipal Library-Museum, headed by a Governing Board, which woul be installed in the cloister of the Convent and the adjoining rooms. The project was approved by unanimously.
The initial core is thus, mainly constituted by municipal archives, a small library (with the inclusion of some works of the extinct high school), some works of António Carneiro (extended by multiple donations and in recent years by the legacy of Katherine Carneyro set), pieces of furniture, popular iconography (A Serpente and Os Diabos de Amarante), weights, measures and municipal insignia, stone weapons referred to the chapels, stately homes and churches, and a small core of archeology of the Council.
It would expand with the conquest of new spaces available by the extinction of some services and the relocation of others.
In 1953 there was inaugurated the rooms António Carneiro, António Cândido and Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso with presentation by Augusto Casimiro, Ilídio Sardoeira and Alexandre Pinheiro Torres.
From Amadeo we almost knew just the name of the prize established in 1935 by the N.S.I, in "politics of spirit", but then, exposed 33 of his artworks as a first step towards the rediscovery of his work, which the monograph by José Augusto França (1956) would help to elucidate.
Manuel Monterroso and Acácio Lino also from Amarante, were honored in 1954 and 1955 and in this last year, , was realized in the upper gallery of the first cloister of the Library-Museum the first contemporary art exhibition (initiative of Alvarez Gallery) with works from Amadeo, Alvarez, Aníbal Alcino, Augusto Gomes, Carlos Botelho, Carlos Carneiro, Dórdio Gomes, Gastão Seixas, Jaime Isidoro, Júlio Resende and Sousa Felgueiras.
Began to set up the vocation of the Museum with the weight of the paint,
widened up the spoil of the Library-Museum, thanks to the action of Victor Sardoeira and the Grupo dos Amigos (boosters of donations, gifts, and some deposits), and was initiated the bronze transition of works of various sculptors.
With the Justice Palace definitely installed, this process was done by Januário Godinho (and stained glass and tapestry by Guilherme Camarinha), a plan of works in the Convent in 1973, with the project Architect Alcino Soutinho will start, focusing initially, on the west side of the cloister nr. 2, replenishing the separating body from the 2nd and 3rd cloisters; and also were made adaptation works in order to restore this last space that comprizes the Noble Hall and the Cozinha dos Frades (transformed into municipal auditorium).
With a second phase of works, already in the 80s, are expanded spaces, greatly intended for the Painting and Sculpture, and takes place a program involving the reception, temporary exhibitions and reservations.
There is a feeling and an understanding that the Library should be autonomized from the Museum and then, the Library must be installed in its own building. These two cultural poles are divided and nominated as Albano Sardoeira Municipal Library and the Municipal Museum Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso.
On behalf of Amadeo and the historicity of his work, the Museum seeks a path of modernity. Are chained generations of artists, with works and the possible authors, certainly with many gaps that always wished to overcome, but with a conciliatory consistency of the artistic currents with the museological accuracy. Sometimes, when exceeded the chronological order, is given place to the "dialog" with the artworks, the thematic, or is valued space and reinterpretations.
With the legacy of Manuel Monterroso (under study), with works done by Acácio Lino and António Carneiro, are exemplified specific situations of Portuguese Naturalism, that belatedly took place in Portugal and above all, remained and continued.
Acácio Lino should be seen also as a limner of History, on the requirement of reconstitution, the poetic and symbolic background of some of his works as O Grande Desvairo, coinciding with nostalgic formulations of his countryman Teixeira de Pascoaes.
With António Carneiro will be understood, almost with exception, the Portuguese Symbolism, filtered through Paris, the intimate values of the picture, the metaphorical landscape, the vague and undefined design, the gaps and some expressionistic approaches.
Will be around this two painters that the initial core of the Museum will proceed untill the west wing of the second cloister and then increased with the early works of Amadeo until its final placement and layout in the current museum space, now valued with the legacy of Miss Lúcia de Souza-Cardoso.
Amadeo is the main reference of the Museum, which is patron, and the approach to his work makes it into an instrument of a modern pedagogy, with visible pathways from Cubism to abstraction, with the news of Futurism, Expressionism and premonitions of Dada and its nonsenses.
Values of rootedness and modernity that Almada Negreiros recognized as "discovery of Portugal in century XX", gave this work a sense of timelessness, only possible in the greatest creators.
Amadeo was rediscovered in the 50-60 years and is on his behalf that the museum will gather works of winning artists with the Prix Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, among the figurative misconceptions and abstract, feeding the controversy until the challenge of the School of Paris, up to the said death of American and Anglo-Saxon vanguards.
In the 60-90 years are here witnessed in sensitive samples, from the Informalism and Gesturalism to Conceptualism, until the contamination of languages, to the derision, a new concept of naivism and a new figuration or even an unlearning that marked the past decade.
Adapted from the presentation text of the Museum's of the catalogue
António Cardoso (1996)
Director of the Municipal Museum Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso