Comic Creator Francisco Augusto Nogueira da Silva

Francisco Augusto Nogueira da Silva


(6 September 1830 - 13 March 1868, Portugal)   Portugal

Francisco Augusto  Nogueira da Silva

Index da Physiologia, by Nogueira da Silva
'Index da Physiologia' (1856).

Nogueira da Silva was a Portuguese engraver and comic pioneer, responsible for early text comics such as 'Index da Physiologia' (1856) and 'As Quatro Luas do Matrimónio' (1857). He is also with near certainty the artist behind the pseudonym Flora, who created 'Aventuras sentimentais e dramáticas do senhor Simplício Baptista' (1850), which counts as the earliest Portuguese (language) comic strip in history. Flora's comic strip was, however, plagiarism from a French comic strip by the cartoonist Louis Morel-Retz, aka Stop.

Early life and career
Francisco Augusto Nogueira da Silva (some sources say Francisco António Nogueira da Silva) was born in Lisbon in 1830. At age 12 he went to work in a military shipyard, while his education at the Academy of Fine Arts was cut short because of economic difficulties. Largely a self-taught artist, he saw art as an expression of social conscience, which he applied both in writing as well as drawing. Leaving his military career behind him for good in 1853, Nogueira da Silva devoted all his time to drawing. Among the first magazines that published his work was Revista Popular. This may have included the contributions of a certain Flora in 1850...

If he was the artist behind the pseudonym Flora he created what is widely considered to be the first Portuguese comic strip: 'Aventuras Sentimentais e Dramáticas do senhor Simplício Baptista', which appeared in issue #18 of Revista Popular on 3 August 1850. The comic strip, published with the text underneath the images, centers around the disastrous love story of an unlucky bachelor, M. Simplício Baptista. As important as this publication is for Portuguese comic history, it was unfortunately shamelessly plagiarized from French artist Louis Morel-Retz, aka Stop, who made the same story eight months earlier under the original title 'Les Aventures de Monsieur Verdreau' (1850) for L'Illustration, Journal Universel. Interestingly enough Flora wasn't the only Portuguese to plagiarize Stop. The same comic reappeared again on page 4 of issue #74 (29 May 1869) of the Brazilian illustrated magazine, A Vida Fluminense, yet this time unsigned and under the slightly different title 'Os Amores do Sr. Barnabé'.

comic art by Flora
'Aventuras sentimentais e dramáticas do senhor Simplício Baptista' (1850), by "Flora".

Further work
Together with Francisco Gonçalves Lopes, he founded the humor magazine Jornal Para Rir in 1857. Between 1858 and 1868 he was also the most productive artist and presumably also art director of the weekly humor magazine Archivo Pittoresco. Simultaneously his art appeared in publications like O Carnaval (1858), Cabrion (1860-1861), Biblioteca do Cabrion (1861), O Escalpelo (1863), O Demócrito (1865) and Boudoir (1865). He furthermore made a series of prints with drawings/caricatures of contemporary celebrities, under the title 'Celebridades Contemporâneas'. Persons known to be portrayed by Nogueira da Silva were William Shakespeare, queen consort of England Catherine of Braganza and Miguel I of Portugal.

Whether Nogueira da Silva was Flora or not, he nevertheless has important contributions to the history of Portuguese comics to his name, enough to avoid branding him as a mere plagiarist. In 1856, he made 'Index da Physiologia' in O Asmodeu. One year later he created 'As quatro Luas do Matrimónio' in Jornal para Rir. It would take until 1870 before the Portuguese comics tradition truly took off with the debut of caricaturist and political cartoonist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro (1846-1905) in O Binóculo. Bordalo in turn was succeeded by the next generation, with Celso Hermínio (1871-1904) and Leal da Câmara as prominent members.

All in all, Francisco Nogueira da Silva is best remembered for popularizing wood engraving in Portugal, an art form ironically enough introduced in his country by Manuel Maria Bordalo Pinheiro, the father of Rafael! One of his pupils was Caetano Alberto (1843-1924). Francisco Nogueira da Silva passed away in Lisbon in 1868.

Portrait of Nogueira da Silva and Gonçalves Lopes (1856/1857).

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