IM-001.GIF (630 bytes)BRAZIL - FINE ARTS

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From the 16th century, Roman Catholic churches and convents in Brazil were decorated in the European style, often by Brazilian craftsmen who had been trained in European methods. During the 17th and 18th centuries, baroque and rococo patterns imported from Portugal dominated Brazil's religious architecture and its interior decor. Many of these churches can be seen today.

The most impressive artist of the whole colonial period was the architect and sculptor Antônio Francisco Lisboa (1738-1814), better known as Aleijadinho (the "Little Cripple"). The self-taught son of a Portuguese settler and a slave mother, he was a master of sophisticated rococo decoration and his painted wood sculpture and stone statuary have a timeless grandeur offeeling. In mid-life Aleijadinho contracted a crippling disease, but he continued to work for another 30 years with chiseland mallet strapped to his wrists. His artistry is seen in many of the baroque churches in his home state of Minas Gerais, especially in the town of Ouro Preto and the surrounding area. In the neighbouring town of Congonhas do Campo, at the Church of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, Aleijadinho sculpted 12 life-sized soapstone statues of the Prophets and placed them on the terrace and staircase outside the entrance. In front of the church's terraced stairs, in six small devotional chapels, he created the Stations of the Crosswith 66 poignant statues in cedar wood.

During the last four decades of the 18th century, new art appeared (especially in Rio de Janeiro) in which religious themes were no longer predominant. Works with temporal themes, such as portraits of exalted personages, became part of Rio's artistic production. At the beginning of the 19th century there was a process of "Europeanization"with the coming of the Portuguese Court to Brazil as the resultof the invasion of Portugal by Napoleon Bonaparte's troops. DomJoão VI, the refugee Portuguese monarch, encouraged Rio de Janeiro's intellectual activity, founding cultural institutions such as the Royal Press and the National Library. In addition, he brought a group of French masters to Brazil to establish an Academy of Arts and Crafts after the style of European art academies and to implement the neoclassic style in the " modernization"plan for the royal capital of Rio de Janeiro. Artists such asthe Taunay brothers, architect Auguste Grandjean de Montigny (1776-1850), and painter Jean-Baptiste Debret(1768-1848) were part of the group. Debret, the most important of the French artists, systematically documented landscapes, people, and rural and urban customs. The tradition established by Debretand his colleagues was so strong that neoclassicism and participation in academies ruled Brazilian visual arts well into the Republican era.

At the Week of Modern Art held in São Paulo in 1922, artistsdiscussed their dissatisfactions with the "academic" world in all fields of the Brazilian arts. The modernists wished to shock the academicians. It is not clear if the 1922 movement caused or coincided with some changes in outlook. It certainly opened broad new avenues such as the critical pursuit of quality, the search for new values, and the rejection of the old European stereotypes. There was no precursor of genius in Brazilian painting: in the 1920's painting simply emerged out of the shadows of theacademy and joined the wave of innovation then sweeping Europe. The techniques were imported, but the moods and themes were clearly Brazilian. Lasar Segall (1891-1957), in 1913, was the first artist to exhibit modern art. One of the most important participants in the Week of Modern Art was Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (1897-1976), a true Bohemian from a family of poets and generals who liked to carouse in the under world of Rio and paint seductive, mulatto women.

Cândido Portinari (1903-1962) was one of the first Brazilian artists to paint his way to international fame. Coming from a small coffee plantation in the interior of São Paulo, he experimented with Brazilian themes and colors. Once he sent for 60 pounds of earth from different areas and mixed the black, purple, reddish, and yellow dirt with his paints. Portinaricaptured in his canvases the way of life of ordinary people, conveying their joys and sufferings in a dramatic way. The universality of his work led to invitations and commissions from many sources, among them the monumental murals at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC and murals on the theme of war and peace at the United Nations in New York.

World War II brought about an interruption in the contact of Brazilian artists with the international art world, even though many foreign artists lived in Brazil. With the end of the War, financial sponsorship began to stimulate artistic production. In the late 1940's the Modern Art Museum was founded in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo got two museums - the Art Museum of São Paulo founded by Assis Chateaubriand and the Museum of Modern Art. With the numerous courses given in these museums, art exhibitions and other museum activities were stimulated throughout Brazil. The São Paulo Biennial, founded in 1951 by Francisco Matarazzo Sobrinho, helped to call Brazilian artists to the attention of an international audience, and to introduce foreign artistic innovations to Brazil. During the 1950s. the Biennials were the most important artistic events in Latin America making São Paulo the centre of great exhibitions of contemporary art and of "flashbacks" of international movements.

Today, the art scene in Brazil is self-assured. Brazil's painters, sculptors, engravers and lithographers show their works both within Brazil and in museums and galleries throughout the world. Current artists include: Lygia Pape, Amélia Toledo, Cildo Meireles, Jac Leirner, Regina Silveira, José Rezende, Waltércio Caldas Jr., Anna Bella Geiger, Rubem Valentim, and Glauco Rodrigues.