The work and life of Rosa Ramalho

If you live in Portugal and you like popular and folk arts, you probably already know the work of Rosa Ramalho. Nevertheless, if there is a Portuguese folk artist that everybody should hear about, it’s definitely her. She was born in 1888 in a small village in the district of Barcelos, learning with a neighbour how to make figures out of clay when she was just a  child. After she got married, she worked with her husband (who was a miller) until his death. It was only when she became a widow – and in need to make a living – that she started to mould clay figures to sell at the nearest (and sometimes not so near) markets and fairs. In the 1950s, as the story goes, she was “discovered” by the painter António Quadros in one of these markets. He was amazed by Rosa’s imaginative creations and cheerful personality, encouraging her to assume an authorial voice by signing the pieces she was producing.

Besides her curious and peculiar figures, the work of Rosa Ramalho is also important because it enables us to reflect about the passage between the anonymous work to the authorial voice, or, to put it in other terms, from the artisan to the artist.  Her work was simultaneously present at local markets and art galleries, and her pieces were bought by locals but also by the cultural and artistic elite of the time. She died in 1977 at the age of 89, and her legacy continues through the hands of her descendants

You can see more works of Rosa Ramalho at:

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