A brief history on Brazilian Modern and Contemporary Art

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A brief history on Brazilian Modern and Contemporary Art

The beginning of the 20th century saw a struggle between old schools and modernist trends. The Week of Modern Art, held in Sao Paulo in 1922, was received with fiery criticism by conservative sectors of the society, but it was a landmark in the history of Brazilian art. It included plastic arts exhibitions, lectures, concerts, and the reading of poems. Due to the radicalism (for the times) of some of their poems and music, the artists were vigorously booed and pelted by the audience, and the press and art critics in general were strong in their condemnation.

However, those artists are now seen as the founders of Modern art in Brazil. Modernist literature and theory of art were represented by Oswald de Andrade, Sergio Millet, Menotti del Picchia and Mario de Andrade, whose revolutionary novel Macunaima (1928) is one of the founding texts of Brazilian Modernism. Painting was represented by Anita Malfatti, Tarsila do Amaral, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti, Vicente do Rego Monteiro; sculpture by Victor Brecheret; and music by Heitor Villa-Lobos, the leader of a new musical nationalism.

The Week not only introduced to a wider public modern, experimental tendencies derived from European Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism, but also wanted to make use of national folklore as a basis for an art more relevant to the Brazilian reality, with an enhanced social awareness. However, the radicalism of those first Modernists couldn’t last for long in a society used to traditional fashions, and the original core members had separated by 1929, pursuing individual paths.

What Brazilian art then became was a mix of some important achievements of the Moderns, meaning freedom from the strict academic agenda, with more conventional traits, giving birth in the following generation to a moderate Modernism, best exemplified by painter Candido Portinari, who was something like the official painter of the Brazilian government in mid-century.

The erosion of radical Modernism in the visual arts in the early 20th century was not reflected in Brazilian literature. Clarice Lispector wrote existentialist novels and developed a highly personal style, filled with stream-of-consciousness and epiphanies. Joao Guimaraes Rosa changed the face of Brazilian literature with his experimental language, and playwright Nelson Rodrigues dealt with crime, prejudice, passion, and sexual pathologies.

In the 1950s, painting and sculpture regained strength through Abstractionism, and architecture began also to display advanced features, influenced by Le Corbusier. Its greatest achievement was the urban core of Brasilia, designed by urbanist Lucio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer, now a World Heritage Site.

Contemporary art in Brazil evolved from Modernism and assimilated later trends, focusing mainly in the early 21st century on city life and all its aspects and displaying a huge diversity of styles in tune with the growing internationalist tendencies.

Source: Wikipedia search for ‘Brazilian Art’



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Expression Art works as a connection between selected Brazilian artists and the international art market with the objective to promote the lively Brazilian culture.