Thursday, April 17, 2014

Portinari, Candido

Discovery of the Land (A descoberta da terra)
Preparatory drawing of the mural, Hispanic Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA
other detail unknown

The mural depicts the discovery of the Americas but without specifically representing either the Portuguese under Cabral who came to Brazil or the Spaniards under Columbus.

Candido Portinari (1903-1962) was one of the most important Brazilian painters and also a prominent and influential practitioner of the neo-realism style in painting.

Born to Italian immigrants, in a coffee plantation in Sao Paulo, he studied at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes (ENBA) in Rio de Janeiro. In 1928 he won a gold medal at the ENBA and a trip to Paris where he stayed until 1930, when he returned to Brazil. He joined the Brazilian Communist Party and stood for senator in 1947 but had to flee Brazil for Uruguay due to the persecution of Communists. He returned to Brazil in 1951 but suffered ill health during the last decade of his life and died in Rio de Janeiro of lead poisoning from his paints.

His works can be found in galleries and settings in Brazil and abroad, ranging from the family chapel in his childhood home to his panels Guerra e Paz (War and Peace) in the United Nations building in New York and four murals in the Hispanic Reading Room of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The range and sweep of his output is quite remarkable. It includes images of childhood, paintings depicting rural and urban labor, refugees fleeing the hardships of Brazil's rural north-east, treatments of the key events in the history of Brazil since the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500, portraits of members of his family and leading Brazilian intellectuals, illustrations for books, tiles decorating the Church of Sao Francisco at Pampulha, Belo Horizonte.