To tell the story of Viúva Lamego is to
tell the story of the Portuguese tile.
For over five centuries, tile has been used as a form of expression in Portugal in different contexts. More than just an aesthetic alternative, the Portuguese tile is a reflection of cultural, social, and economic influences, inseparable from the country's history. The production of tiles in Portugal dates back to the mid-sixteenth century; however, it was only in the nineteenth century that this industry was established.
Brazil's growing demand for Portuguese porcelain and tiles, ideal for protecting buildings from the hot and humid climate, led to the emergence of new ceramic factories throughout the country. Founded in Lisbon in 1849, Viúva Lamego was one of the very first few.
The factory in Intendente
Built between 1849 and 1865, the Viúva Lamego factory building was, at the time, the pottery workshop of António Costa Lamego, a craft very common in that area of Lisbon. The façade, entirely decorated with figurative tiles by the factory artistic director, Ferreira das Tabuletas, was one of the first to use tiles as a means of publicity.
The building, now classified as a property of public interest, is one of the most emblematic in the city, an ex-libris of the nineteenth-century naïf style tiling.
From clay to tile
In the early days, the factory mainly produced utilitarian articles in red clay, tiles in white clay, and some faience. With the advent of the twentieth century, tiles became the main product of Viúva Lamego. At the time Viúva Lamego already maintained a close connection with artists, with workshops placed conveniently at their disposal.
In the 1930s, the industrial component was moved to Palma de Baixo, and again in 1992, to Abrunheira, Sintra, where it has been since. Today, the building in Largo do Intendente is open to the public as a shop, with tiles and other ceramic products as the main products.
First built between 1849 and 1865, the Intendente factory was
originally the pottery workshop of António Costa Lamego.
The artistic creation
Since the1930s, one of the pillars of Viúva Lamego has been its collaboration with plastic artists who identified the creative potential in tiles. Visiting the factory, talking with the craftsmen, and actively participating in all phases of the projects, creators from different quarters contributed to the revitalisation of artistic ceramics in Portugal.
One of the most paradigmatic cases is that of Jorge Barradas, whose career started as a comic cartoon illustrator and eventually evolved into ceramics and tiles. His pioneering work developed in 1945 partly at Viúva Lamego, led to the recognition of Jorge as a master of ceramics. His work would go on to influence several younger artists, such as Manuel Cargaleiro and Querubim Lapa.
Maria Keil and public art
In the second half of the twentieth century, that pattern tiles captured the imagination of the creative community. They liked the democratising element and the possibilities of combining them. Maria Keil was one of the first artists to explore the limits of tile standardisation.
The continuous combinations, with variations of colour and composition, became the hallmarks of the works signed by Maria Keil, such as the tile panels created for the Metropolitano de Lisboa, produced in the Viúva Lamego like all other projects of the artist.
The continuous combinations, with variations of colour and composition, became the hallmarks of the works signed by Maria Keil, such as the tile panels created for the Metropolitano de Lisboa, produced in the Viúva Lamego like all other projects of the artist. It is also during the 1960s that public spaces were first seen as ideal spaces for innovating and experimenting, giving strength to the concept of public art. Architecture and urbanism benefited from the use of tile, as a versatile and practical support.
The great architectural projects
From the moment that art began to find its place in public buildings, the relationship between architects and plastic artists narrowed. Today, the Masters of the Viúva Lamego factory are called to contribute to innovative architectural projects by the likes of Siza Vieira, Souto Moura, and Rem Koolhaas - all Pritzker Prize winners. Notable examples featuring tiles produced by Viúva Lamego are Siza Vieira's Portuguese Pavilion built for the Expo 98 and the underground metro stations of Baixa-Chiado (Lisbon) and S. Bento (Porto), which clearly demonstrate how contemporary architecture and tiles can complement each other.
Art, Architecture and Tile
Such notable projects elevate tiles to the artistic plane. By enabling tile to serve as a mean for beautiful art, Viúva Lamego guarantees that tradition is maintained while renewing itself.
The path walked by Siza Vieira, Cargaleiro, Erró, and others are being continued by a young generation of artists and architects who see in the tile a material to freely experiment, reinvent, and take risks. Creators with innovative ideas find In Viúva Lamego the knowledge of centuries of experience and an environment that fosters bold creations.