Graphic Porto – Cruz Caldas’ Porto Coliseu

In December 1941, two swallows were strangely advancing spring by flying over the city of Porto. Confused by the fatigue of the journey or the cosmopolitan air of the city, one of them exclaimed: “Look! Look! We’ve ended up in New York!!!”. The illustration, by the artist and publicist António Cruz Caldas (1898-1975), was published in the local daily O Primeiro de Janeiro and announced the inauguration of a new venue in the city: the Coliseu do Porto.

Designed by the modernist architect Cassiano Branco, the Coliseu do Porto imposed itself on the urban landscape as a cultural symbol, to which architectural strategies that can be classified as advertising were no strangers. Inaugurated on December 19, 1941, the building, located on Rua de Passos Manuel, was designed to house large advertising screens announcing the shows (Cayatte, 2018). In fact, the building’s tower itself came to dominate the street (Tostões, 2015), with the lettering, which can be seen from different perspectives, either going down Passos Manuel in the Poveiros-Santa Catarina direction, or going up in the opposite direction.


António Cruz Caldas collaborated with the Coliseu do Porto for three decades, designing posters for shows or events, designing programs for concerts, designing stage door panels for the circus. Since the illustrator is also a symbol of modernism – he studied at the Porto School of Fine Arts (Moreiras, 2019) – his collaboration with the Coliseu do Porto is one of many facets, including caricaturist. He was a publicist at Empresa Gráfica do Bolhão and was a regular in local newspapers: the aforementioned O Primeiro de Janeiro, but also O Tripeiro. He was involved in multiple activities and embodied the spirit of the time, contaminating advertising with the manual dexterity he inherited from drawing, and drawing with the advertising techniques he put into practice at Empresa do Bolhão. Continuing Passeio’s tour of Porto’s graphic image (see here and here), we highlight Cruz Caldas’ relationship with the Coliseum, the dialog he was willing to establish with the city, fabricating it and its collective imagination.

Mixing the sophistication of the new cultural space with its desired popular dimension (the Coliseu is a character, among others, in the city), he materializes this eclecticism in some of the posters for the Coliseum Carnival. Such is the case with the example in which a dancing crowd invades the building’s tower, at the same time as a Zé Povinho mask is installed on the façade. The popular modernity of the Coliseum is enunciated in its productions. Take the “modern show put on by journalists from Porto“, whose poster was designed by Cruz Caldas. Other revues passed through the publicist’s pencil (Aleluia), but also operas (A Vida Breve and O Amor Bruxo), the music hall Enquanto Houver Santo António and circus shows. The Coliseu combined dances, concerts and theater with cinema, in nostalgic matinees and soirées.

But if there are expressive symbols of Cruz Caldas’ aesthetic and, at the same time, of the activity of the Coliseu do Porto, they are to be found in the posters of the Carnival balls, a pretext for a gallery of color, movement, light and social significance. They feature the lust of the Cancan, clowns (the Pierrot figure), masks, circus animals and social types.


Published on 09/11/2023

Text: Teresa Lima


Cayatte, H. (2018). Inesquecível. In E. P. Barroso (Coord.), O Coliseu e a Cidade: 75 anos de histórias em 7 olhares (pp. 25-42). Coliseu do Porto.

Moreiras, T. (2019). O cartaz publicitário na obra gráfica de António Cruz Caldas ESMAD-IPP.

Tostões, A. (2015). A idade maior: cultura e tecnologia na arquitetura moderna portuguesa. Faculdade de Arquitetura da Universidade do Porto.

Images: Arquivo Histórico Municipal do Porto

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