This exhibition highlights literature's importance as a primary influence on new artistic ideas in the mid-nineteenth century, introduced by a bold notion of modernity that ran counter to academicism and stood as a provocation against institutionalised taste.

In the generation that was to follow, the modern art practised by Grupo do Leão emerged around the figure of Silva Porto, featuring paintings in "plein air" and the use of intense chromaticism. Columbano's notion of modernity at the heart of his portraits of intellectual elites was connected to the novelty of some symbolisms and introduced an idea of representing reality that presaged modernism.

The chronological markers in the Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea's collection begin in 1850 with the dissenting of Romanticism and proceed through the final decades of the nineteenth century as the concept of modernity came to be explored by the landscape painters and portraitists of Grupo do Leão.

This collection thus incorporates the most significant works of nineteenth century Portuguese art, while the fascination with subsequent modernist projects reflects a true seduction, linked to the ideas explored in the exhibition Avant-garde and Neo-Avant-garde Movements in 20th and 21st Century Portuguese Art. Spanning a wide-ranging period from 1850 to the present day, this is a unique collection marked by the consistency of its works.