Falling in love with autumn was easy this year, as the weather has been akin to that of August. Finding a romantic location wasn’t hard. Romantic in different meanings in fact. The hard part was having it look like it was fall, what with all the sun and green leaves (I’m onto you perennial trees…).
The location I’m about to introduce is romantic in several senses of the term. Not only is it a lovely place to visit on a Sunday morning, in the company of that one special person (or not so special according to individual preferences) but it also has the makings of a truly romantic location. The last one I mean, in the sense of the artistic/philosophical/lifestyle movement, native to the end of the XVIII Century in Europe, called Romantism.
This movement came to be in reaction to the logical side of the late XVII century, Illuminism or the Age of Reason, the previous approach to life that rested on rational logic and scientific proof.
Romantism, initially, was just a way to see life, which later developed into a full movement with several large scale political and artistic repercussions. The focus started being on the individual, the personal tragedy, the inner turmoil. Logic and symmetry gave place to a more chaotic approach of subjectivity and introspection.
This influenced everything, and architecture was no exception. The gardens are a good example of the whole mood of that time. Strong, geometric designs gave way to the bucolic feeling of the rural and the unkempt. Faux, man-made ruins would litter the several expanses of seemingly wild bushes and trees. All very tragic. The natural wild replacing what the rationality of man had previously imposed. I believe they weren’t very concerned with the fact that it was still man made even if it didn’t look like it.
The garden I want to tell you about belongs to the grounds of the currently nominated Lisbon’s City Museum. And it gives you the joy of two for the price of one (I’ll explain below).
Even though it wasn’t completely romantic in style when it was first projected, I found myself having Romantism invade me as I visited, not literally, just a feeling. The main garden looks a bit on the wild side, with exotic creatures inhabiting it,
a bunch of old ruins laying about,
and even a fountain to finish the assemble.
To top it all of, on a neater area of the garden, a statue of one of the most dignified Portuguese Romantic writers can be found gazing at his muse.
Again, all very tragic.
But there is more to this place. Not only can you visit the original gardens of this XVIII century palace (turned museum) that I just described, but you can also visit a secondary garden, that was recently upgraded to show the fantastic work (and I mean really, just look at the size of those creatures) of the Portuguese artist Bordallo Pinheiro.
This little garden has a completely different feel to it. More tidy in nature, with geometric bushes very well arranged across the sandy space, it isn’t very romantic in style, but I find it very romantic in feel. The whole garden is a big, wide stage. The natural inhabitants of the wild nature are blown out of proportions, gaining an exotic and fantastic nature. The vibrancy of their colours (and I’m so sad I have used mostly my black-and-white film on this one) gives them a life that completely blows your mind. Animal fables can be witnessed, frozen in time, all around you, and the thrill of finding the unexpected everywhere. It might not be a very romantic canon, but it sure is a romantic location to visit, enjoy and fall in love with. I know I did.
Bordallo Pinheiro was an artist of several crafts, but some of his best known work, and the more unique, was the design of a specific style of faience/china wear completely based on the organic elements of both flora and fauna. This work was what directly inspired the creation of the garden documented above. Take a look at this link, it is worth it.