by Shannon Vittoria, Research Assistant
Portugese-born painter Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso (1887-1918) was one of the most commercially successful artists at the Armory Show, selling seven of the eight works he lent to the exhibition. Although he had participated in avant-garde exhibits abroad, the Armory Show marked his American debut – a major milestone in his tragically short career.
Souza-Cardoso moved to Paris in 1906 and he soon developed close ties with members of the avant-garde, including American artist Walter Pach. The two men cultivated a close friendship and when Pach was securing loans for the Armory Show, he borrowed important examples of Souza-Cardoso’s work, including his Leap of the Rabbit (1911), Landscape (1912), and The Stronghold (ca. 1912). These paintings reflect the artist’s experiments with both Cubism and Futurism, although he did not officially associate with either movement. As he stated in 1916: “I am an Impressionist, Cubist, Futurist, Abstractionist – a little of everything, not following any one school, but merely looking for originality.”
Souza-Cardoso’s unique and personal style was unexpectedly popular with American collectors: despite knowing very little about the artist, they were eager to acquire examples of his work. He sold three paintings to collector Arthur Jerome Eddy; two to fellow Armory Show exhibitor Robert Chanler; one to artist Manierre Dawson; and one to collector Elizabeth S. Cheever. Encouraged by this success, Pach attempted to organize additional exhibitions of the artist’s work in New York. But with the outbreak of World War I, Souza-Cardoso was forced to stay in Portugal and his isolation thwarted Pach’s efforts.
At the age of thirty-one, the young artist lost his life to the influenza epidemic of 1918. Forty years later, in a letter to Souza-Cardoso’s widow, Pach fondly reminisced, “the period when I had the pleasure of knowing your husband was so rich and fruitful,” and he acknowledged the artist’s importance in “the struggle for the good cause in art.”