Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pedro Americo

Independence or Death!
oil on canvas
4.15 m × 7.60 m
Museu Paulista, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Pedro Americo de Figueiredo e Melo (1843-1905), born in Areias, was one of the most important academic painters of Brazil. Endowed with extraordinary talent, he was also a writer and ventured in literature, Sciences and politics.

Born in a family of artists, he soon showed his intellectual and artistic skills under the guidance of his father, a violinist, who introduced him to the rudiments of music and culture in general. He moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1854, where he was granted a scholarship to study in the Academia Imperial de Belas Artes (Imperial Academy of Fine Arts). Later he furthered his studies in Europe, at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, being a pupil of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, winning much praise for his paintings, and achieving the Doctorate in Sciences at the University of Brussels, in 1868. Returning to Brazil, he produced one of the most well known works of art in Brazil: Independence or Death!, depicting the moment when Prince Peter declared the country independent from Portugal, a work that has illustrated History books for elementary schools in Brazil for decades.

Living mostly in Florence, Italy but traveling extensively back and forth from Rio de Janeiro, he managed to work also as a lecturer and an art historian. Knighted by the German Crown he was also Great Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. With the proclamation of the Republic in Brazil in 1889, he was elected a deputy of the National Assembly.