Reflecting the influence of both the classical tradition and French symbolism, his poetry moves from saudosismo, or nostalgia for a mythic past, to an increasing concern with consciousness and sensation.
Fernando Pessoa is the most celebrated Portuguese poet, who had a major role in the development of modernism in his country. During his career as a writer Pessoa was virtually unknown and he published little of his vast body of work. Most of his life Pessoa lived in a furnished room in Lisbon, where he died in obscurity.
When Pessoa was five years old, his father died of tuberculosis. A year later, his brother also died and his widowed mother was remarried to the Portuguese consul in Durban, South Africa; the family moved to the city in 1896. The young Pessoa received his early education in Durban and Cape Town, becoming fluent in the English language and developing an appreciation for English poets such as William Shakespeare and John Milton. He also used English in his first collections of poems.
He then went back to Lisbon, at the age of seventeen, attending a "Curso Superior de Letras" in a Portuguese university. A student strike soon put an end to his studies, however, and Pessoa chose to study privately at home for a year. His term of study ended and Pessoa found a job working as an assistant for a businessman, where he was charged with writing correspondence and translating documents.
Pessoa earned a modest living as a commercial translator, and wrote avant-garde reviews, especially for Orpheu, created in 1914 by Pessoa and and other artists and poets such as Almada Negreiros and Mário de Sá Carneiro, which was a forum for new aesthetic views and that would introduce modern literature in Portugal. His articles in praise of the saudosismo movement provoked polemics because of their extravagant language.
Pessoa's first book, Antinous, appeared in 1918, and was followed by two other collection of poems, all written in English. It was not until 1933 that he published his first book, the slim, prize-winning Mensagem, in Portuguese. However, it did not attract much attention. Mensagem (Message) is a very unusual twentieth century book: it is a symbolist epic made up of 44 short poems organized in three parts or Cycles.
Some literary critics and analysts of Pessoa's work have suggested that Pessoa may have been homosexual or bisexual. Some of his "English Poems" were homoerotic, and he reportedly broke off his engagement to Ophelia Queiroz by telling her "My destiny belongs to a different law, whose existence some do not even suspect." However, there is no clearly documented evidence of Pessoa's sexual preference, and his use of heteronyms makes it difficult to verify whether the homosexual subtext in some of his work documents his own experience or that of a character. Whatever his sexual orientation was, he was mainly asexual, as he (as Bernardo Soares) seems to state in The Book of Disquietude, a collection of prose manuscripts, written in the style of an intimate diary.
Pessoa's earliest heteronym, at the age of six, was the Chevalier de Pas. Other childhood heteronyms included Dr Pancrácio and David Merrick, followed by Charles Robert Anon and Alexander Search; these were eventually succeeded by others, most notably: Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos, Ricardo Reis and semi-heteronym Bernardo Soares. According to Pessoa, the heteronym closest to his personality was Bernardo Soares, the author of The Book of Disquietude.
Álvaro Campos, an engineer, represents in the spirit of Walt Whitman the ecstasy of experience; he writes in free verse. Ricardo Reis is an epicurean doctor with a classical education; he writes in meters and stanzas that recall Horace. Alberto Caeiro, a shepherd, is against all sentimentality, and writes in colloquial free verse. Each persona has a distinct philosophy of life. Pessoa even wrote literary discussions among them.
In 1912, Fernando Pessoa wrote a set of essays later collected under the designation The New Portuguese Poetry for the literary journal A Águia, (The Eagle), founded in Oporto in December 1910. The articles disclose him as a connoisseur of modern European literature and an expert of recent literary trends. On the other hand, he does not care too much for methodology of analysis and problems of history of ideas. He states his confidence that Portugal would soon produce a great poet -a 'super-Camoens' as he calls him – pledged to make an important contribution for European culture, and indeed, for humanity.
The bulk of Pessoa's work was published in literary magazines, especially in his own Athena. Under his own name Pessoa wrote poems that are marked by their innovative language, although he used traditional stanza and metric patterns.
Pessoa died of cirrhosis on November 30, 1935 in Lisbon, almost unknown to the public and with only one book published: Mensagem (Message). In 1985, his remains were moved to the Jerónimos Monastery, in Lisbon, the same place where there are the tombs of Vasco da Gama, Luís de Camões, and Alexandre Herculano.
José Sobral de Almada Negreiros (April 7, 1893 – June 15, 1970) was a Portuguese artist. He was born in the colony of Portuguese São Tomé and Príncipe, the son of a Portuguese father, António Lobo de Almada Negreiros, and a Santomean mother, Elvira Freire Sobral. Besides literature and painting, Almada developed ballet choreographies, and worked on tapestry, engraving, murals, caricature, mosaic, azulejo and stained glass.
His mother died in 1896. In 1900 he enters in a jesuit boarding school in Campolide, Lisbon. After the October 1910 republican revolution this school is closed and Almada enters the Escola Internacional, also in Lisbon.
In 1913 he made his first individual exhibition, showing 90 drawings. In 1915, along with Fernando Pessoa and Mário de Sá-Carneiro, publishes poems and texts in the Orpheu artistic magazine, which would introduce modernist literature and art in Portugal. This same year Almada Negreiros writes the famous Manifesto Anti-Dantas e por extenso, a humorous attack against a more traditionalist and bourgeois older generation. In 1915 the artist also conceives the O Sonho da Rosa ballet.
In 1917, with the scope of introducing to the Portuguese public the Futuristic aesthetics, Almada Negreiros publishes, together with Santa-Rita Pintor, the Portugal Futurista magazine, writing the Ultimatum Futurista, às gerações portuguezas do século XX ("Futurist ultimatum to the Portuguese generations of the 20th century"). He promotes a conference, the Sessão Futurista ("Futurist Session"), where he appears wearing a flight suit.
Between the years 1918-20 Almada lives in Paris. To support himself, he works as a dancer and as a factory worker. In 1920 he returns to Lisbon. In 1925 he produces two paintings for one of the most famous cafés in Lisbon, A Brasileira. In 1927 he goes to Madrid where he writes in several Spanish publications like Cronica and La Farsa. He writes El Uno, tragédia de la Unidad.
Back in Portugal, in the following years his artistic production will be wide and prolific as he becomes a key artist in Portuguese modern art, influenced by Cubism and, mainly, by Futurism. His role, during António de Oliveira Salazar's authoritarian regime is however ambiguous, assuming both as an "aligned" artist (doing public mural paintings or propaganda posters) and a provocative critic of Portuguese society of the time.
In 1934 he married painter Sarah Afonso (May 13, 1899 – December 14, 1983). Re-settled for good in Portugal, he would continue in his role as "artistic agitator" within the oppressed society that was Portugal until the time of his death. In 1934 the couple had their only son, José Afonso de Almada Negreiros.
He was also, even if sparely, an actor and a dancer although that shows his compreehension that all forms of art are intimately linked.