Early life and career (1940s and 1950s)
Pomar first studied at the Escola Secundária Artística António Arroio, in his native city of Lisbon. He entered the Superior School of Fine Arts of Lisbon in 1942. The same year he organized his first exhibition, with a group of former colleagues of the António Arroio School, aged only 16 years old, which included painters like Fernando de Azevedo and Marcelino Vespeira. Among the notables that visited it was Almada Negreiros, who bought him the now lost painting Saltimbancos. In 1944, disappointed with the Lisbon artistic education, he moved to the Superior School of Fine Arts of Porto, which he would leave two years later, after a disciplinary process. During this time he joined a group of fellow artists called the Independents and participated in their exhibitions in 1944, in Porto and Coimbra, and in 1945, in Lisbon. He was the director of the art page of the daily A Tarde, from Porto, from June to October 1945. He helped to divulgate the work of painters like the German Expressionist George Grosz, the Mexican muralists José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Brazilian Candido Portinari, three leading names of the Neo-realism artistic movement. He soon was a member of the artistic movement in Portugal, and would collaborate in magazines like Seara Nova, Vértice and Mundo Literário. He joined the Communist Youth of the Portuguese Communist Party in 1945, of which he would gradually leave years later.
Pomar work becomes very politically and ideological engaged during his neo-realist phase, from 1945 to 1957. In 1946, he started a mural at the Cine Teatro Batalha, in Porto, which would be destroyed for political reasons in 1948. He was one of the main organizers and exhibiters of the General Exhibitions of Plastic Arts, from 1946 to 1956, that were the main exhibitions of Portuguese neo-realist painting during this time. One of his paintings, Resistência (Resistance) was apprehended by the Political Police in 1947, at the second exhibition, deemed as "political subversive". The same year he held his first individual exhibition at the Portugália Gallery, in Porto. He also would be arrested for four months, for being a member of the MUD. He did the official portrait of Democratic Opposition Presidential candidate, general José Norton de Matos, in 1948. In 1949, he lost his place of Drawing teacher at the technical education because of his political involvement in the campaign.
Pomar first truly neo-realist painting was Gadanheiro (Mower), from 1945, while his most emblematic work in this style would be O Almoço do Trolha (The Lunch of the Trolley), where he worked from 1946 to 1950, and was first exhibited in 1947. Portuguese art historian Rui Mário Gonçalves described it as one of "the most important milestones of Neo-realist painting, with its theme taken from the life of the proletariat, treated with rough material and with a Portinariesque anatomical accentuation of the feet and hands".
During these youth years, he also worked on illustration and ceramics. He became less compromised with time with the neo-realist movement and his last important works in this style were the paintings that he did called Ciclo do Arroz (Rice Cicle), from 1952-1955, inspired by several travels to Ribatejo's rice fields in the company of writer Alves Redol. Like art historian Alexandre Pomar explained, "Around 1956, without a precise point of rupture in its pictorial production or an explicit departure from the previous political positions, the itinerary of Pomar begins to be oriented in other directions".
Pomar had already left neo-realism when he settled in Paris in June 1963. He would return several times to Portugal for the next twenty years. In Paris, he will not join any artistic groups nor practice the artistic languages in vogue, maintaining a position of critical distance to the contemporary arts movements. This defense of autonomy leads him to remain faithful to the expression of the gesture, to the exploration of the line, to the opening of composition to an informal pictorial language. In 1967 he made the first assemblages with found materials and in the following year he began two parallel series, one of which was about the convulsions of May 1968. He exhibited once again in Lisbon and, beginning in 1969, he began a regular collaboration with the Gallery 111 of Manuel de Brito, who from now on would represent him in Portugal.
When the revolution of April 1974 occurs Pomar is in Lisbon, where he remains for several months. Throughout the 1970s he published a collection of poems, participated in important international exhibitions, most notably at the Bienal de S. Paulo, Brazil, in 1976, and held important solo exhibitions, from which one can highlight the first retrospective of his work, at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in Lisbon, and at the Soares dos Reis National Museum, in Porto, both in 1978.
Characterized by a type of figuration that crosses the surprise of the process of association of images learned with surrealism and the heritage of abstract expressionism, the painting of Pomar over the last decades results from an intense activity and a permanent desire for thematic diversification. In their combinations we will find tigers and rain hats, monkeys, portraits, more or less explicit; sometimes it seems clear his will to seek its roots, like in his famous painting Lusitânia no Bairro Alto (1985), with portraits of Mário de Sá Carneiro, Santa-Rita Pintor and Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso.
Essays and poetry
He published three books of essays on painting, Discours sur la Cécité des Peintres (1985), Da Cegueira dos Pintores (1986), and Então e a Pintura? (2003). He published two books of poetry, Alguns Eventos (1992) and TRATAdoDITOeFeito (2003).
Atelier-Museum Júlio Pomar
The Atelier-Museum Júlio Pomar was inaugurated in Lisbon, in 2013, in a building bought by the Municipality of Lisbon in 2000, and refurbished in a project by Álvaro Siza Vieira. The Atelier-Museum has several hundreds of works by the artist, including paintings, drawings and sculptures, donated by himself to the Júlio Pomar Foundation.
Pomar is represented in several museums across Portugal and abroad, including the Chiado Museum, Modern Art Center José de Azeredo Perdigão, Berardo Collection Museum, in Lisbon, Museum of Contemporary Art of Serralves, Porto, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo Museum of Art, São Paulo, among others.
- Group, Global Media (22 May 2018). "Morreu Júlio Pomar". JN (in Portuguese). Retrieved 22 May 2018.
- Alexandre Pomar, Júlio Pomar. O neo-realismo, e depois (1942-1968), in Pomar, Júlio - Júlio Pomar, Catálogo "Raisonné". Paris; Lisboa: I Éditions de la Différence; Ed. Artemágica (2004) (Portuguese).
- Rui Mário Gonçalves, Pintura e Escultura em Portugal. 1940-1980 (1981) (Portuguese)
- Alexandre Pomar, Júlio Pomar. O neo-realismo, e depois (1942-1968), in Pomar, Júlio - Júlio Pomar, Catálogo "Raisonné". Paris; Lisboa: I Éditions de la Diference; Ed. Artemágica (2004) (Portuguese)
- Atelier-Museu Júlio Pomar, Público, 6 February 2013 (Portuguese)