The museum, dedicated to the work of José Malhoa, was created in 1933, a few months before the painter’s death, and housed temporarily in the Casa dos Barcos, in the Parque Dom Carlos I, graciously provided and improved by the Spa Hospital. The following year, the architect Paulino Montês presented a design for the museum to have its own premises, which was inaugurated in 1940. This was the first building in Portugal to be constructed specifically to house a museum and is an interesting example of Portuguese modernist architecture.
The museum’s collection consists of an important group of pieces representative of Portuguese naturalism centred around the work of Malhoa himself and including the Portrait of Laura Sauvinet, Shouting to the Flock, Vines in Autumn, Clouds, Latest News, Spring, Conversation with the Neighbour and The Promises. The Grupo do Leão – the circle of painters to which Malhoa belonged with Silva Porto, Columbano, António Ramalho, João Vaz, Henrique Pinto and Moura Girão – is also represented in the museum’s collection, as well as other contemporary artists, such as Marques de Oliveira.
The collection of naturalist paintings also includes works by Veloso Salgado and Luciano Freire. Equally interesting are the portraits by the artists Malta and Medina and some modernist works by Eduardo Viana. The sculpture collection includes works by Francisco Franco and Leopoldo de Almeida.
Because of its longstanding importance and tradition in Caldas da Rainha, there is also a ceramics section centred around the work of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro. The same artist also produced the Passion of Christ, a set of terracotta sculptures forming nine separate groups.