Elective Affinities XXIII: Old Men

by Nandia Foteini Vlachou

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Portrait of an old man, 2015 © Vasco Trancoso

Portrait of an old man, Caldas da Rainha, 7 October 2015 © Vasco Trancoso

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António Soares, Velho frequentador de botequins, c. 1920-30, crayon on paper, 32.5 x 25 cm, Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea - Museu do Chiado, Lisbon (photo © Arnaldo Soares, 1993)

António Soares, Velho frequentador de botequins, c. 1920-30, crayon on paper, 32.5 x 25 cm, Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea – Museu do Chiado, Lisbon (photo © Arnaldo Soares, 1993)

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I first became aware of Vasco Trancoso’s work through a series of repostings of his photographs by the official Facebook account of António Filipe Pimentel (the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga’s director), in the context of the #ComingOutMNAA campaign – involving the hanging of framed, faithful reproductions after the museum’s collection in the streets of Lisbon. Today, I came across another photograph of his, the excellent portrait of an old man, from a series of street photographs. I have been recently studying (a little…) the work of the Portuguese painter António Soares (1894-1978), so his Velho frequentador de botequins naturally came to mind. Both the drawing and photograph are striking works. The lines of the faces are intense, almost structural. They can be read, like a story; they can be traced, like a map. The power of observation and description makes these characterizations profoundly sympathetic (despite the humorous tone in Soares’ drawing). Painter and photograph approach their models with understanding for the excesses of a life spent, capturing images that communicate, unexpectedly, through time.

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