Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Malfatti, Anita

Chanson de Montmartre
oil on canvas
73.3 x 60.2 cm
private collection

Anita Catarina Malfatti (1889-1964), born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was a painter, draughtswoman, engraver. She is heralded as the first Brazilian artist to introduce European and American forms of Modernism to Brazil. She began her artistic apprenticeship with her mother. Due to a congenital atrophy in her arm and right hand, she used her left to paint.

She lived in Germany between 1910 and 1914, where she came into contact with museum art. During this period, she also devoted herself to the study of engraving. From 1915-16, she lived in New York, taking lessons at the Arts Students League of New York and at the Independent School of Art.
Her solo exhibition in Sao Paulo from 1917-1918, was quite controversial at the time, and her expressionist style and subject were revolutionary for the rather complacently old-fashioned art expectations of Brazilians who were searching for a national identity in art, but who were not prepared for the influences she would bring to the country. Her presence was also highly felt during the Week of Modern Art (Semana de Arte Moderna) in 1922, where she and the Group of Five (together with Tarsila do Amaral, Mario de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade and Menotti del Picchia) made huge revolutionary changes in the structure and response to modern art in Brazil.

In 1923, she won a scholarship, moving to Paris, where she remained for five years. During her stay, she avoided polemical avant-garde stances, painting interior scene, moving towards fauvism and the simplicity of primitive painting. She did not deny Modernism but avoided its ruptures. Returning to Brazil in 1928, she became interested in regionalist themes, turning towards traditional forms.

She identified herself with the quest for a spontaneous, well-made painting that was neither tied to hallowed models nor lost in its desire for innovation. From the 1940s onwards, she began to paint scenes from everyday life to an ever greater degree. During the 1950s, she not only took everyday subjects as her themes, but also began to incorporate them into her forms under the influence of popular art.