Photographs of Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and Arpad Szenes
In Vieira da Silva’s photobiography, sculptor João Cutileiro accompanies his portraits of Vieira and Arpad with the memory of his first meeting with the painter. Vieira arrived at João Cutileiro’s family home without Arpad in 1952, taken by the painter Estrela Faria, a secondary school friend of the sculptor’s father, Doctor José Jacinto Cutileiro, who had been banned from applying to a state job in Portugal for political reasons. João Cutileiro was 15 at the time. Vieira was about 44, and a famous artist. She had applied for Portuguese citizenship again that year, only to be denied it once more. The teenager drew her portrait: he proudly saw his drawing on a wall of her Paris studio some years after. His photographic portraits appeared later, as the two artists met again on a few occasions. João Cutileiro used to say that Photography was the first art, even though it was one of the last to be invented: a technology that took its time to express the primal impulse to capture the moment. Capturing the elusive moment is perhaps to be found less in his photography work (in which he preferred portraits) than in his drawings, or in some series of voyeuristic sculptures of stolen intimate moments. Nonetheless, Cutileiro was a compulsive photographer since his London years, when photography became a much-needed source of income. An impressive archive spanning six decades is proof of his incessant desire to photograph: documenting thousands of contacts, several generations of friends and acquaintances featuring countless fundamental figures of Portuguese and European culture, it is a major part of the estate that he left to the Portuguese State. Digital photography, which requires neither time-consuming development nor the need to save shots, fed his urge to capture the image of almost everyone that he came across. When João was not covered in dust and wearing ear defenders, he would very likely have a camera around his neck, ready to shoot in-between a drink or a snack – a kind of natural extension of fraternisation, an enduring way to capture friendship’s ephemeral moments.