A painter, a draughtsman, an illustrator of books, literary magazines, newspapers, a graphic artist, a marchand and collector of art and antiques, an actor in films and theater, a diabetic gourmet, a scandalous dandy, a provocative wit, a shocking bohemian with an unlimited intellectual curiosity and the flamboyant lifestyle of an aristocratic artist. Olavo Correia Leite d'Eça Leal was born in a family with conflicting hereditary traditions. This certainly accounted for the complexity of his personality and the wide range of his talents. And problems... A humble warning and a confession to the reader: These notes are only a vague attempt at a biographic sketch of my father as the artis persona who chose to call himself just by the name of Olavo.
I am his 5th child, from his 3rd marriage. He was 47 when I was born and I was 21 when he died. All I know about him was absorbed first hand. As life unwinded, I came across the odd opportunities for learning more facts and stories in a non systematic biographical kind of way, such as literary prizes, salons/exhibitions, films, magazines, newspapers, travels, anecdotes regarding friends or acquaintances.
We – myself, my mother and my sons - hope to continue to expand these notes as a wikipedian anchor, absorbing all contributions, reviews, critiques, additional notes, new entries, links, inviting comments, news, relevant and (apparently...) irrelevant cross references of all sorts, photographs of Olavo, family, friends, images of his and his generation's drawings and paintings and sculptures, a sprawling weedlike web that may begin to inspire in our visitors (to either the Museum House or simply the Site or the Blog) a vision of his visionary neo-renaissance eclecticism as a poet, a prize winning novelist, a publicist and a journalist, a II World War correspondent in Berlin!, a prolific playwright for the theater (more than 12 plays written for the National Theater) and the radio (over 5,000 one-act sketches/radio plays!...) and television (more than 67 plays written, produced and directed from 58 to 73) – in both media he was a pioneer as a writer-producer and the most amazing speaker and diseur with a famous and immediately recognizable soul and gut grasping voice which, for a few years, was on an exclusive contract with an advertising agency – owner and provocative creative guru of various advertising agencies, a painter, a draughtsman, an illustrator of books, literary magazines, newspapers, a graphic artist, a marchand and collector of art and antiques, an actor in films and theater, a diabetic gourmet, a scandalous dandy, a provocative wit, a shocking bohemian with an unlimited intellectual curiosity and the flamboyant lifestyle of an aristocratic artist.
For general stuff before my birth, I relied on the account in the Enciclopédia Portuguesa e Brasileira by his friend the poet Carlos Queiroz (brother of Ofelia, the platonic love of the great poet Fernando Pessoa), who also wrote the Encyclopedia bios on his father, grand father and eldest son, all of whom were recordable personalities in their own time and right. I am hoping that my aunt Helena, his younger sister, who worked so close to him for a long time, her daughters, my sister Barbara and, most of all, my brother Paulo-Guilherme Tomaz and his children, will find these notes to be an incentive for their own contributions to a biography of Olavo and to a genre of memorabilia and photo gallery that we are trying to collect (check the site page on The House; all of its furniture and fittings are directly or indirectly traceable back to him and his wife Emilia, most of the pieces were either from this house or their Lisbon apartment or from their antique shop in Sintra or from my own house, bought under his unorthodox esthetical and spiritual taste supervision from Beyond...), to the history of his curious and eccentric family and his circle of friends and compagnons de route, a generation of Portuguese intellectuals, artists, writers, poets from 1910 to 1960 - most of whom were, like him, contributors to the literary magazine Presença and to the Salão dos Independentes - which has been so poorly recorded and studied (contributions to a data bank on Portuguese artistic and literary circles of that period can be made through the Casa da Pinheira Blog). We hope to create two associate platforms/blogs/links. One specifically for the Eça Family circle of writers and another for the Presença / Independentes intellectual generation.
I loved my father and the She Pine Tree Museum House is a tribute to our mutual love. But let there be no misunderstanding on the essential level of our relationship and the intellectual honesty between us since my childhood. For Olavo, love was to like and accept others as they were. This meant that his paternal rhetoric was never paternalistic, never overfilled with encomiastic praises of his children, nor did he expect daddy's ego rubbing in return. Nor did he want to change others or be changed by them. He took life and people as they came. Varied and unique. An opportunity for his curiosity. Father thrilled with a straightforward sharp critique of anything and everything. Irony and sarcasm were intellectual tools that he wittily enjoyed.
The deal was that he would give me his honest opinion about all I did (or how I looked!), as he always did with everybody else, much to their surprise (and, sometimes, shock...). And as his payback, he delighted in my methodical, surgical even, analysis of his poems, his theater and radio plays, his drawings, his novels, his newspaper columns (to some of which I started contributing with my illustrations from the age of 10, on his constant instigation), his political opinions or choice of antiques (since I could walk, he would regularly take me as his pet for his evening tours of Lisbon antique shops and art galleries and museums).
This was his extraordinary notion of education and paternal love. Experience, confrontation, dialog and, above all else, a caustic and pitiless sense of humor. A sweet and sour heart, abundant in tenderness and capable of such Franciscan generosity that he was totally deprived of the boundaries of property while incapable of holding back one last humorous remark that would twist your soul as you left the room, hiding your raging humiliated tears with your uncontrollable laughter.
Confusing? Yes. Totally. His last words to me as he was passing away in a hospital bed in Oxford were kind of whispered with a painful mimic of a smile through his transparent oxygen mask and I could hear him in my mental headphones saying in his loud snobbish slightly nasalized voice, remember me with a smile. And I imagined his head dropping back and him laughing his heart out. Next time I saw him, he was lying naked on a white marble block in the Radcliff Hospital mortuary, the rigor mortis had recasted the perfect athlete body of his youth, carved in the same marble of the plinth, the senatorial head resting in tranquility, the classic Mediterranean nose pointing to the vaulted ceilings of that magnificent hall. The immaculate setting for his funerary ceremony.
Adieu, he would have said, typically overstating it..., Hence, these notes are simple statements. And not a eulogy.
Let's start with the Mother: Flávia da Fonseca Guimaraens e Correia Leite She came from old Jewish banking and trading families, based in Oporto, wealthy New Christians converted to Catholicism in the 15th and 16th centuries. Back then, the Correia Leite had been discrete bankers to the Crown, from time to time, and had been influent financiers and investors in some of the main Crown monopolies (namely with the Count-Baron de Quintela-Farrobo consortiums on matches and tobacco). His mother's youngest brother, Armando, was a businessman with particularly close ties to the Free Masons and the Oporto Masonic Lodge. Her eldest brother, Guilherme like his grandfather and great grandfather and great-great grandfather, was a banker who ran the family business, the Casa Bancária Correia Leite, founded by Olavo's grandfather, one of the 28 children of his great grandfather, the capitalist Correia Leite. This grandfather Guilherme split away from the family businesses in Oporto and moved to Lisbon where he settled his money affairs. His son Guilherme would take it back to Oporto.
There were two private banking houses with the same name. One remained in Lisbon, with another branch of the same family, later to be absorbed by Banco Borges, which led to the Chairman position of this bank to be controlled by a Correia Leite, Afonso, at the time of the 74 revolution. And the one in Oporto controlled and managed by Olavo's uncles. On the Fonseca Guimaraens side – his maternal grandmother – his great grandfather had been an extremely wealthy landowner in Brazil, with one of the largest coffee plantations and more than 400 slaves! Strong family ties and investments in the Douro Valley and the port wine business, namely the roots of the port brand Fonseca, developed by another branch of the Fonseca Guimaraens.
Indeed, Olavo would often recount his vintage season holydays in his grandmother's Quinta in the Douro Valley, as a teenager, playing and trekking up the steep hills and mountains that surround this World Heritage Site of terraced vineyards, designing and molding unforgettable landscapes, with his cousins, Guilherme and Ilda (whose portraits by the painter Antonio Carneiro are now part of the Museum House collection). Those children of his uncle Guilherme left no descendents. Very handsome cousin Guilherme died at the age of 22 from tuberculosis.
Ilda had quite a crush on Olavo and since their romance never took off, she never married. Passable as a poet, Ilda published a few books of poetry (we hope to have copies of all her books on display in a few months). Guilherme is the confusing key name on this side of the family. Everyone seems to have it somewhere in their name for some reason. Even I have it, lost in a long list of family links that I was christened with (despite my original bastard status...). Tomaz Olavo João Guilherme Frederico. My eldest brother (Paulo Guilherme Tomaz) has it, Olavo's eldest brother, my uncle Frederico Guilherme João, obviously had it, and so on for countless generations. Olavo was simply Olavo. Nothing else. The name came to him from the Fonseca Guimaraens grandparents via Brazil, as apparently there was a Danish forefather married to an Argentinean lady and their daughter married great great grandfather Guimaraens.
The name passed on to one of his Brazilian grand uncles and on to him and then on to me and to one other of my older brothers, Olavo d'Oliveira Amaral d'Eça, his 4th child. His mother's name, Flávia, was also given to one of Olavo's younger sisters, Maria Flávia, an eccentric lady skinnier than her blade sharp sense of humor and malice. Olavo's youngest daughter, his 6th child, would be named after her grandmothers on both sides ending in classic roman combination of Flávia Augusta! On the father's side – Thomaz d'Aquino Pereira d'Eça e Albuquerque Leal – Olavo's grandfather's closest family circle included some of Portugal's most outstanding and popular writers of their time, such as the greatest Portuguese novelist ever, Eça de Queiroz, or Julio (Pereira d'Eça) Dantas, a 2nd cousin, and the most famous and successful academic novelist and playwright of late 19th, early 20th centuries (a letter of whom to grandfather Tomaz, praising one of his cousin's poetry books, is on display in The House), uncle Gervásio Lobato, married to Olavo's great aunt Cristina, another very popular playwright, journalist and publicist, cousin Eduardo Schwalbach, still another famous journalist and playwright, Maria O'Neil, etc.. Going back to the 16th century, one finds that one of his ancestors (Joana de Camões e Eça) was a relative of the greatest Portuguese epic poet, Luís de Camões. NOTE: please find out more about Olavo's father's lineage by going to www (to be completed).
Where you can climb up this particular side of his family tree, Pereira d'Eça, and learn that most of his paternal ancestry was land gentry – Moura Coutinho - from Terras de Basto (Celorico de Basto e Mondim de Basto, Paço do Freixo e Casa do Sobrado) and army officers, up to the very first King of Portugal. Learn more about the Eça's descendence from King Dom Pedro of Portugal and his turbulent passion for Dona Inez de Castro, from whom he had the rightful descendants of the Portuguese 1st Dynasty, his son Prince Dom João de Portugal and his only grandson, Dom Fernando de Eça (check ... to be completed). João Francisco Xavier d'Eça Leal (b.29.01.1848 in Viana do Castelo, North of Portugal, d.01.08.1914 in Lisbon), the grandfather of Olavo, was an elegant romantic poet and playwright who made a parallel career in His Majesty's Treasury service. He published a couple of poetry books without much success but his plays, more than 60, were all performed in the most prestigious Lisbon theaters of his time and even in Brasil.
Some of his plays, he co-authored with well known contemporanean writers such as his uncle Gervásio Lobato or his cousin Eduardo Schwalbach, António Batalha Reis and Alfredo de Ataíde. In his youth he even wrote the first scenes for a comedy with his cousin Eça de Queiroz, the most prestigious novelist of his generation and one of the greatest Portuguese writers of all times.
He married his 1st degree cousin Aurora Germana Pereira d'Eça e Albuquerque, the daughter of a sister of his mother and Afonso Tavares de Albuquerque do Amaral Cardoso (from the Casa do Arco family in Viseu). Tomaz d'Eça Leal (b.26.01.1876, d.03.05.1959, Lisbon), the father, was a dandy and a wit, a socialite poet, theater critic, publicist, journalist, editor of newspapers and literary magazines, more than a dozen books of poetry and short stories published (including one with illustrations by his son Olavo and another with illustrations by some of the most famous Portuguese artists of his time) with a parallel career as Director of the Portuguese Mail Services! An album of pictures, caricatures and press clips of his very active social life can be visited on (page under construction).
Paulo-Guilherme d'Eça Leal (b.21.07.1932, Lisbon), Olavo's eldest son, is an incredibly proliphic graphic designer (more than 3000 illustrations printed in books, magazines, book covers, posters, billboards, etc., by the age of 28...), stage designer (in Paris, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon), painter, draughtsman, architect (Lisbon Airport, 1985-2000), chef, restaurateur and night club owner and designer. Caixote, 3 Porquinhos, Snob, Snobissimo, Cabaretissimo, etc., in Lisbon and Cascais, Coutada in Oporto, were some of his projects and all of them were undisputed land marks of social and night life in Portugal in the late 50's, 60's and early 70's, when so much of the international jetset would stopover in Cascais and Estoril, the favorite golden exile for dethroned monarchs in the 20th century. But his eclectic list of talents goes on. Interior designer (headquarters of Banco Totta & Azores in Avenida dos Aliados, Oporto was, probably, his most outstanding achievement, commissioned directly by Antonio Champalimaud when he first bought the bank, a tour de force in massive blocks of glass and stone and cement within a 19th century palace...), photographer and photo journalist, poet, short stories writer, journalist, historian and researcher on exoteric subjects such as the Templar (The Treasure of the Templar) and the pyramids (The Secret of Keops). Film director. More than a dozen books published.
Olavo, the heart and reason for this Museum House, was born in Lisbon in 1908 (R. Alexandre Herculano). July 31st. Went to primary school in Calçada do Combro, Palácio Mesquitela, and then on to Colégio Militar, the Military School, for 2 years, when his parents separated. After their divorce in 1920, his mother moved to Paris for 2 years (where he went to the École Pascal, joining the like of Porfirio Rubirosa and the Parker Pen Company heir) and then on to the spas and casinos circuit in Germany, Baden Baden and all other baden in Bavaria, where they joined her wealthy mother, Maria da Fonseca Guimaraens, and, like so many of their more affluent contemporaries between the Great Wars, they went on a modern version of the Grand Tour, from Paris to Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Côte d'Azur.
Skipping the western Mediterranean and its classic archeological and sociologic nostalgia...What mother and grand mother really liked was the casinos' life style... Their beautiful Lisbon house – later to be the residence of the President of the Republic General Craveiro Lopes, who bought the amazing house because the initials of my great grandmother Mariquinhas, CL for Corrêa Leite, were the same as his, CL for Craveiro Lopes, were carved all over the house from door knobs to the balconies rails... - stood exactly where today is still operating the Apollo 70 shopping center, (which, as the family saga unfolded, was to be designed by her grandson Paulo-Guilherme...).
As his mother remarried (Alberto da Câmara de Vasconcellos) and another brother was added to the family portfolio (Alberto Correia Leite da Câmara de Vasconcellos), Olavo and big brother Frederico were shipped back to Oporto, where under the patriarchal oversight of uncle Guilherme Correia Leite, they went to boarding school for a couple of years.
At the age of 16, Olavo decided that schools were prisons for his wild romantic, bohemian and free spirited personality. So he left and moved back to Lisbon to live with his father in the same building as his beautiful grandmother Aurora, in Chiado, Rua Victor Cordon. Just across from António and Flávia Monsaraz. And from his uncle the Count of Ribeiro da Silva, and his father's cousine, the viscountess of Setúbal. Uncle Guilherme got him a job as a bank clerk in the same old Banco Borges & Irmão. Soon after, the great dame of Portuguese classical theater, Amelia Rey Colaço, invited him to write his first play - which was actually performed at the National Theater D. Maria in Lisbon when he was only 18 ! - and probably encouraged by this early success, he left the bank and went back to Paris to work in an insurance company, L'Urbaine, whose agents in Portugal were (once again...) his uncle Guilherme Correia Leite.
Only six months after moving to Paris, he was working as the sound engineer and assistant director on the first Portuguese sound film, A Severa, directed by Leitão de Barros at the "Éclair" Studios, in Paris. From there, and still in Paris, he went on to do cartoons at the André Vigneau Studios. Confused by his own eclectic precocity, searching a path to follow, a guidance, a set of principles to build a life and a career on, before his 20's he wrote to a famous French philosopher of his time, Alain, describing his angst and anxieties and seeking an inspiration. His could-be-guru was on holidays somewhere on the Côte and sent him back a post card which he kept religiously and I believe still exists somewhere (Barbara ? Paulo ? Do you have it?) with this classic palm reader axiomatic understatement: "Mon cher Olavo, croyez au changement ! Lui seul est sur..." And he lived his life in a peaceful agreement with this near Buddhist prayer.
Between the age of 18 (1926) and 24 (1932), moving back and forth between Lisbon and Paris, Biarritz being his adored stopover, he got involved in everything and anything that was "modern", "jazzy", "contemporary ", "artistic", "bohemian", "trendy", "chic", "radical", "different", "interesting", "eclectic", from extreme left (his portrait of António Cunhal, Àlvaro's - the historic leader of the Portuguese Communist Party - younger brother, when they were both 21, is definitely a master piece and quite probably the best pencil drawing in Portuguese 20th century portrait art, very selectively exhibited over the last 40 years, when it was shown for the first time at the National Beaux Arts Society; the portrait is presently in the Portuguese Communist Party's art collection, a gift from João Ramos de Almeida, the political activist, on inheriting it from his step father, Fernando Abranches-Ferrão, a great legal mind and an ever elegant defender of civic and political freedom; him and Olavo were crossed godfathers of their respective daughters, compadres) to the far right, no friendship boundaries known except character and wit.
True to Alain's encouragement, from the age of 18 until he died, he explored all art forms and all life styles: cinema, theater, dance (he was a fabulous dancer and won a few occasional ballroom dancing prizes, including some 2nd prize for Charleston in some competition in Paris, with 1st prize going to an afro-american jazz dancer), a passionate fan of Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes, he posed nude in classic ballet positions (we are desperately trying to negotiate a copy of his wonderful nude picture by one of the lakes at the Fontainebleau Park), all the sorts of graphic and performing arts and all the genres of literature. But, above all, participating in the late twenties, early thirties, European art movida, going to the cabarets, the ateliers, the concerts, from classic to funky, bootlegging, sketching, scribbling, drinking, sexing, doing drugs – morphine and cocaine, like everybody else in those art milieus in those hallucinated times - dressing up as the immaculate dandy that he was right until the very end of his impressionable life, street fighting in sleazy night clubs, playing (semi professionally at one stage) in casinos, reading, performing, filming, photographing, loving and being loved, enjoying and experiencing life in all ways.
Life as Art. An Art form. An esthete with an esthetic view of ethics. In 1928, at the age of 20, he published his first book with children's stories, "Provérbios", with his own illustrations (the originals of some of which are on the lounge walls of the Museum House). By 1931, he was sharing a house with his much older friends Chianca de Garcia and Leitão de Barros, the incredible conceivers and producers for António Ferro of the 1940 Exhibition of the Portuguese World, – as a non paying guest, since he couldn't afford both rent and tailors, and he would always rather pay his tailors than rent... - when he met Maria Luísa Dúlio Ribeiro and his life took a significant turn: in July 1932 he became the proud father of Paulo-Guilherme Tomaz.
Luísa was a very special and quite strong and independent personality, despite her très petite taille: a 9 year older divorcee with a son from a traditional Goan Brahman-Catholic family of Portuguese ascendancy, with a solid cultural background and a reasonably cosmopolitan life story. A translator of Anglo-Saxon modern literature, Luisa shared close ties of friendship with a group of independent and proud women intellectuals, such as Manuela Vasconcellos Porto or Astrid Kradolfer, Virgínia Rau, etc., who were particularly interested in Virginia Wolf and the English literary movements.
A few years after Paulo's birth (1932), and trying to overcome the economic difficulties in Portugal and Europe of the impact of the Great Depression for any artist or intellectual, they moved with their son to Brasil where they stayed for over a year. With the help of his Fonseca Guimarães family in Rio and S.Paulo, Olavo got his first job working in civil aviation services. It didn't last long as he had no vocation at all as a bureaucrat. He moved in land to work in a family fazenda in Rio Grande as a gaucho! Hunting wild boar and dear (!) with a pack of 80 milk-fed pointers, horse riding rounding up cattle (his full apparatus as a gaucho should still exist at Paulo's or Barbara's together with his beautiful pair of Smith and Wesson's and the respective gun belt), he thoroughly enjoyed this wild west south american adventure and found time to capture and cage, totally on his own, a collection of snakes and reptiles! Unfortunately he had to kill them one by one when he returned to Portugal.
On his return, he published as a newspaper series the bed time story that he had written for Paulo, "The Extraordinary Story of Iratan and Iracema, The Worst Behaved Children in The World" (the children's story that adults were waiting for! Said the advertising slogan...). Soon after he published the book (1939, with illustrations of Paulo Ferreira, a wonderful draughtsman and illustrator who made most of his career in Paris) and it was awarded the most important literary prize for children's literature in Portugal, the Prémio Maria Amália Vaz de Carvalho.
In 1939, already working at the National Broadcasting Services (Emissora Nacional) as a radio speaker and announcer (having won the 1st prize at the 1st national competition for radio speakers, a feat he would repeat a few years later), he accepted an obviously more exciting position as war correspondent in Berlin for a Lisbon based news agency, officially neutral but, apparently, financed by Jewish funds... He naturally traveled with Luisa, who was fluent in German. They would return to Berlin in 1942, when the Americans allied with Great Britain.
From his return to Portugal after his second experience in Berlin, he actively established himself as a radio writer and producer and successfully promoted his advertising business which he had started in 41 and continued until 75. In 1956 he opened his advertising agency's offices in Paris with a group of French associates. It was called Spartac and he ran the office in 56 and 57. His different formats of radio shows were probably the most successful of the 40's, 50's and early 60's in Portugal. Some of them were published as books ("Falar Por Falar", 1943, "A Voz Da Rádio", 1944, "Nem Tudo Se Perde No Ar", 1946).
From the very start of television broadcasts in Portugal he expanded into TV production, writing, producing and presenting his own shows, initially live – like everything else on TV in those days – and later taped for broadcast. His radio shows were also being broadcast in Angola, Mozambique, Brasil, Azores, Madeira, Timor and Macau.
But all his life he was extremely active in all forms of journalism (hence the invitation for the war correspondent job) but particularly in the literary and art journalism. He regularly wrote (or contributed to as an illustrator) for all main literary and cinema magazines between 1926 and 1966, such as "Comtemporânea", "Seara Nova", "Presença", "Acção", "Imagem", "Kino", "Panorama", "Atlântico". He also worked as a journalist and a publicist with regular columns in daily newspapers such as Diário de Notícias, Século, Diario Popular, A Capital, Jornal de Noticias, Primeiro de Janeiro, Jornal do Comércio, etc.. He founded the O Século de Domingo in 1958, the Sunday supplement of O Século, the largest selling newspaper of those days.
And he continued his work as a writer. In 1940 he published "Fim de Semana", short stories. In 1943 he published "A History of Portugal for Lazy Children", for which he was awarded for the second time the literary prize "Maria Amália Vaz de Carvalho", for children's literature. In 1948 he published "O Processo Arquivado", for which he was awarded the literary prize "Fialho de Almeida" for literature. In 1958 he published "O Conceituado Comerciante", a semi auto-biographic novel, after his downfall following a social scandal in 56. No prizes awarded by any respectable literary institution this time... he never published another novel which he had nearly finished "A Rapariga do Snack Bar". Maybe the Museum House will some day... "Iratan e Iracema" is presently being translated to English and French for publication next year. He also published his plays "A Visita da Velha Senhora", e "O Amor, o Dinheiro e a Morte" (Love, Money and Death), both played at the National Theater by the great dame of Portuguese theater, Amélia Rey Colaço, on whose invitation he had started his career as a playwright at 18, still playing his plays when he was reaching 55!
Since his precocious debut in "A Severa", also at the age of 18, he continued to work in films, namely "The Revolution of May", directed by António Lopes Ribeiro, "Ladrão Precisa-se!", directed by Brun do Canto, "..." , directed by Chianca de Garcia, etc..
To be continued...