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the sower (1919-23), francisco franco

Artist: Francisco Franco (1885-1955)

Technique: Bronze


Year: 1919-23

Location of creation: Paris or Funchal (unclear data)

Current Location: near the City Hall, Rua do Padre Gonçalves da

Câmara, Funchal

Movements: Portuguese Modern Art



Artist: Francisco Franco (1885-1955)
General Notes: Born in Funchal, this Madeiran artist is considered to be the father of modernism sculpture in Portugal; studied in Lisbon and lived in Paris; belonged to the first generation of modernist Portuguese artists, considered the greatest Portuguese sculptor of the 1920 decade, transforming the national Portuguese sculptural paradigm of the time; one of the main artists of the Estado Novo.
Contextual Notes: he traveled to Paris under a state scholarship, granted in the last year of his studies at the Escola de Belas Artes in Lisbon, where he socialized with other Portuguese artists such as Amadeo de Souza Cardoso and Eduardo Viana; designed the infamous monument in Lisbon, Cristo Rei.
Objectives/Goals: fascinated by the works of Rodin, the Parisian artist had a profound influence on his approach to form;

general description

Bronze statue of a man, made in 1919 (some believed it to be sculpted in Paris, however in 1919 the artist was residing in Funchal), it was later cast in 1923, in Paris, after he returned to France, where it was also exhibited, a year later. The sculpture was inaugurated on 7th December 1936, at the Praça de Tenerife, and has been places in various locations ever since: in 1966 at Junta Geral do Funchal at Avenida Zarco, in 1989 at Parque de Santa Catarina and in  2009 at the city hall where it still remains.

It depicts the figure of a sower, a reference to the agricultural history of the island; also considered to be an homage to the locally important banker and patron of arts, Henrique Augusto Vieira de Castro.

The work condenses all of the knowledge Franco apprehended in the rich artistic scenery of Paris at that time.

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A Subtle Homage: it’s said by the local historian, Rui Carita, that this sculpture was produced in a subtle homage to the banker, industrialist, philanthropist and important patron of the arts in Funchal, Henrique Augusto Vieira de Castro (1869-1926); in this perspective, it also symbolizes the importance of the patronage of the arts. 

The Symbol of the Sower: the figure of the sower reflects the artist’s heritage and birthplace, as Madeira Island is deeply marked by agricultural practices; it acts not only as a symbol of the island, but also of perseverance, strength, dedication, and the positive results that always result from a strenuous hard work; 

Metaphorical Sowing: the sower “sows” and “reaps” his results, metaphorically the statue claims that we all have the ability to create our own life, cultivating today what we can reap tomorrow.

The Emotion of Patriotism: since it reflects a fundamental practice of the island, it aims to resonate with the fellow countrymen of the island and generate feelings of honor, integrity, devotion, nationalism and patriotism; 

Expressionism and the Human Figure: like Rodin, Franco expressed corporeality and movement through rougher, more unfinished surfaces.

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Aesthetic and Plastic Evolution: plastic, expressive and impressionist representation of the surface.

Synthesis of Influences: graceful rendition of several Parisian artistic styles (romanticism, expressionism, realism, impressionism).

Rodin’s Influence: major influence of the impressionist realism of Rodin’s work, very clear in this sculpture in the way the form is manipulated and handled; the human body for Rodin is contorted and in movement, two qualities Franco aimed to also reflect.

Naturalism: realism and naturalism of the figure, very distinctive of his early works, heavily influenced by Rodin. The French artist shaped a new era of sculpture, where the realism came from the subject, the working class – men and women performing daily tasks – while conveying an heroic sense to it. This comes across, very distinctively in the Sower.

Expressive lyricism and movement: caught in motion, movement emanates from the anatomic sculpted figure; this lyricism aims to engage the viewer.

Foreign Influences: Franco applies all of his new knowledge and French artistic influences in this work, bringing with him, a new age to Portuguese art.

Turning Point: the sculpture propelled the artist’s popularity, and greatly influenced the fellow Portuguese artists; with it a changing artistic environment emerged, at the beginning of the 20th century.

direct influences and connections









significant images

nearby works

Artist: António Duarte
Title: Justice
Date: 1962
Medium: Bronze
Size: Approx. 2 m in Height
Location: Palácio da Justiça do Funchal, Rua do Marquês, Funchal, Madeira Island, Portugal

Architect: Pêro Anes / Gil Enes
Title: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption
Location: Funchal, Madeira Island
Beginning of Construction: 1493
Concluded: 1514
Movements: Manueline Architecture
Commissioned By: D Manuel I
Function: Religious Architecture