War and Peace

Get to know the context of one of the Brazilian masterpieces

By Projeto Portinari

Portinari pintando o painel da ONU (1955)Projeto Portinari

"War and Peace are unquestionably the best work I’ve done… I dedicate them to humanity…"

Portinari to Reuters news agency, 1957

Painel de Portinari na ONU (1957-09-03)Projeto Portinari

"... the most important monumental work of art donated to the UN."

Dag Hammarskjold, UN secretary general at that time, 1957. Nobel Peace Prize

Portinari pintando os painéis para a ONU (1955) by Renata FrankProjeto Portinari

Gifts from the Brazilian government for the UN headquarters building in New York, the painter was commissioned to make the War and Peace panels at the end of 1952.

Letter Letter (1952-09-19) by Vasco Leitão da CunhaProjeto Portinari

Um brasileiro construirá a sede da ONU Um brasileiro construirá a sede da ONU (1947-03-05)Projeto Portinari

Portinari pintando o painel "Paz" para a ONU (1955)Projeto Portinari

It was a large surface, 280 square meters, larger than the area in the Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo’s Last Judgment is painted.

Portinari e as maquetes para os painéis da ONU (1955-11) by Antônio RudgeProjeto Portinari

Portinari pintando os painéis para a ONU (1955)Projeto Portinari

Defying medical orders to refrain from painting – he was suffering from lead paint poisoning - Portinari accepted the invitation. For four years he persevered, working in the auditorium of the TV Tupi studios, to make the 180 studies, sketches and scale models for the murals.

Portinari e sua obra, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portinari pintando maquetes para o painel Guerra, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portinari e sua obra, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Mother with Dead Son (1955) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

"He would portray war through the people's suffering rather than the soldiers' fighting."

Antonio Bento

Woman with Dead Son, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Woman and Child, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Mother, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Woman Crying, Candido Portinari, 1955-05, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Woman Crying and Hand, Candido Portinari, 1955-04, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Woman Crying, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Woman Crying, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Kneeling Woman, Candido Portinari, 1955-05, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Suffering of Mother, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Kneeling Woman, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Women Crying, Candido Portinari, 1956, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Mother with Son, Candido Portinari, 1955-04, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Flexed Feet, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Kneeling Woman with Dead Son, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Dead Son, Candido Portinari, 1955-04, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Widow, Candido Portinari, 1955-05, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Woman Crying, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Interlaced Hands, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Woman Crying, Candido Portinari, 1955-04, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Mother and Daughter, Candido Portinari, 1955-05, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Dead Boy, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Dead Man, Candido Portinari, 1958, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Orphan Boy, Candido Portinari, 1956, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Head of Man, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Head of Woman, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Head of Old Man, Candido Portinari, 1955-05, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Head of Woman, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Interlaced Hands, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Wild Beast, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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"The group of hyenas, an adjudicative metaphor Portinari uses to see and portray the men who wages war, seems so real – with such excessive realism – that these scavening beasts, nocturnal and cowards, appears with claws poised for the feast, with the vestments and standards thas nature gave them."

Clarival do Prado Valladares

Wild Beasts, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Wild Beast, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Wild Beast, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Wild Beast, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Wild Beasts, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Death as Rider, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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"Portinari found in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the point of departure for his timeless and ubiquitous War."

Clarival do Prado Valladares

Horse, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Horse, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Head of Horse, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Head of Horse, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Pinwheel (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

"With all these golden, sparkling with life, joyful tones, the painter seems to say: 'Universal peace ir possible'."

Israel Pedrosa

Boy with Pinwheel, Candido Portinari, 1955-06, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Boy with Diabolo, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Leg and Foot, Candido Portinari, 1955-08, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Handstand, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Boys Swinging, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Two Kids, Candido Portinari, 1955-06, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Figure with Sheep, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Rice Thresher, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Rice Threshers, Candido Portinari, 1955-06, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Circle Dance, Candido Portinari, 1955-06, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Woman, Candido Portinari, 1955-07, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Figure of Woman, Candido Portinari, 1955-07, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Couple on Horseback, Candido Portinari, 1955-08, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Lampião and Maria Bonita, Candido Portinari, 1955-08-15, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Chorus, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Chorus, Candido Portinari, 1955-06, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Peace, Candido Portinari, 1955-06, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Hands, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Hands, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Hands, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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War (1952) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

War

1952-1956

War, Candido Portinari, 1952, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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War, Candido Portinari, 1952, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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War, Candido Portinari, 1954, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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War, Candido Portinari, 1952, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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O painel "Guerra" na ONU, 1968-06, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Peace (1952) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Peace

1952-1956

Boys Playing, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Peace, Candido Portinari, 1955-06, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Peace, Candido Portinari, 1952, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Peace, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Peace, Candido Portinari, 1954, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Peace, Candido Portinari, 1952, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portinari pintando os painéis para a ONU (1955) by Renata FrankProjeto Portinari

The War and Peace panels, Cândido Portinari’s masterpiece, are the result of a life dedicated to the love for human beings.

O presidente JK na mostra dos painéis da ONU (1956-03) by Armando RozárioProjeto Portinari

Commission delivered. But no one had yet seen the panels in their entirety, not even the artist himself. This launched a mass movement resulting in a group of artists and intellectuals appealing to Itamaraty to exhibit the panels in Brazil before sending them to the United States, giving Brazilians their first and last opportunity to see them.

Exposição dos painéis "Guerra" e "Paz" (1956-03)Projeto Portinari

“It’s no wonder that at 11:00 the night of the inauguration Portinari had lost his voice,” wrote Mario Barata about the exhibition of War and Peace at the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro, in 1956. “The vibration of friends, known and unknown, reached the painter. And the emotion filled voice of the panels’ creator fell lower, thinned to a mere thread, became silent. Portinari was seeing his life’s greatest triumph, unequaled in the last eighty years of Western history.

Never in modern art in the world has a painter seen his works superposed to the chords of Wagner and Verdi, to the fantasy of Chopin’s ballets, to the majesty of symphonic orchestras. For the first time in the 20th century, the largest theater in a city is turned into a temple of painting...

O povo lotou o Municipal para ver os painéis de Portinari O povo lotou o Municipal para ver os painéis de Portinari (1956-02-29)Projeto Portinari

...Groups of students, workers, young women, senior citizens, people humbly dressed, one great throng replaced the next throughout the day and into the night, packing the theater during the exhibition’s brief stay. All the newspapers gave the event extensive coverage. The Imprensa Popular ran the headline: 'The people packed the Municipal Theater to see Portinari’s panels.' The subtitle read: 'I’ve never seen anything like it,' said the doorman who handed out brochures at the entrance...

Exposição dos painéis "Guerra" e "Paz" (1956-03)Projeto Portinari

...strange and devout was that little band of dark shadows, apparitions standing, immobile, spellbound, mesmerized, before the twin flames that filled their entire field of vision (...).

The initial wonder of the sight inhabits me still, and I know no other way to tell you of the exhibition of War and Peace at the Municipal Theater..."

Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Painel de Portinari na ONU (1957-08-30)Projeto Portinari

Soon after the exhibition was taken down, the panels were sent to the UN.

Painel de Portinari na ONU (1957-08-30)Projeto Portinari

Painel de Portinari na ONU (1957-09-03)Projeto Portinari

However, only on September 6, 1957, after the two huge crates containing the work had sat in the institution’s basement for one and a half years, were War and Peace finally donated to the UN in a formal ceremony.

Painéis de Portinari na ONU (1957-09-06)Projeto Portinari

Due to Portinari’s involvement with the Communist Party, he was not invited to this ceremony, but was represented by the head of Brazil’s mission to the UN, Ambassador Cyro de Freitas-Valle, who said: 'I’m sad to say I don’t see him here today.' He added: 'I want to emphasize that today Brazil is giving the United Nations what it considers to be the best it has to offer.'

Painéis de Portinari na ONU (1957-09-06)Projeto Portinari

“Be it by dimension or by the greatness of painting, these two Portinari panels that have been decorating the lobby of the United Nations Assembly in New York since 1956 can be considered among the main examples of universal painting of a community feeling in this century.”

Clarival do Prado Valladares

Interlaced Hands (1955) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

"If such paintings were not permanently engraved on your inner canvas, it is because you did not deserve to see them. In the language of a work of art, which is a perfect joy even when it exposes us to mourning and deathly solitude, Portinari tell us: Look. Truly see. Penetrate the depths of these images, and choose."

Carlos Drummond de Andrade, 1956.

Portinari pintando os painéis para a ONU (1955)Projeto Portinari

Missing Works

Around 420 of the painter’s works have been located. These works have been captured in historical photographs and newspaper clippings, or were cited in correspondence from the period. Among these missing works are six important studies that Portinari did for the War and Peace panels. Five of them are among the only twelve life-size oil on wood paintings. The Portinari Project tenaciously continues its efforts to locate and catalog the painter’s entire body of work. If you have any information concerning the whereabouts of these works, please e-mail pp@portinari.org.br

Women Crying and Dead Child, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Women Crying and Dead Child c.1955

Painting oil/wood 160 x 190cm (estimated) Unsigned and undated Unknown collection

Model for the panel “War” [FCO 3799] Work not located

Exhibitions:

Bezalel National Art Museum. Portinari, Oil Paintings and Drawings: 1940-1956. June 16, 1956., (14) Tel Aviv Museum. Portinari, Oil Paintings and Drawings: 1940-1956. 1956., (14) Museum of Modern Art. Portinari, Oil Paintings and Drawings: 1940-1956. 1956., (14) Museum of Ein Harod. Portinari, Oil Paintings and Drawings: 1940-1956. 1956., (14) São Paulo Museum of Modern Art. São Paulo Biennial. July 2, 1955., (9) Maison de la Pensée Française. Portinari: oeuvres récentes. March 26, 1957., (9)

Orphan, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Órphan c.1955

Painting oil/wood 194 x 54.5cm (estimated) Unsigned and undated Unknown collection

Model for the panel “War” [3799] Work not located

Exhibitions:

Bezalel National Art Museum. Portinari, Oil Paintings and Drawings: 1940-1956. June 16, 1956., (15) Tel Aviv Museum. Portinari, Oil Paintings and Drawings: 1940-1956. 1956., (15) Museum of Modern Art. Portinari, Oil Paintings and Drawings: 1940-1956. 1956., (15) Museum of Ein Harod. Portinari, Oil Paintings and Drawings: 1940-1956. 1956., (15) São Paulo Museum of Modern Art. São Paulo Biennial. July 2, 1955., (4) Maison de la Pensée Française. Portinari: oeuvres récentes. March 26, 1957., (10) São Paulo Musuem of Modern Art. São Paulo Biennial. Sept. 1959., (28) Haus der Kulturinstitute. Portinari Exhibition. July 20, 1957. Portinari Exhibition. Oct. 18, 1957.

Women Crying, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Women Crying
[1955]

Painting oil/wood
Dimensions not known
Unknown collection

Model for the panel “War" [FCO 3799]
Work not located

Exhibitions:
• São Paulo Museum of Modern Art. São Paulo Biennial. July 2, 1955., (3)
• Dum Uméni. Candido Portinari. June 17, 1960., (52)
• Galerie Nacionale. Candido Portinari. July 22, 1960., (59)
• Galerie Manes. Candido Portinari. Sept. 15, 1960., (52)

Dead Boy, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Dead Boy
[1955]

Painting oil/wood
Dimensions not known
Unknown collection

REMARKS:
Model for the panel “War” [FCO 3799]
Work not located

Women Crying, Candido Portinari, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Women Crying [1955]

Painting oil/wood 160 x 190cm (estimated) Unknown collection

REMARKS:

Model for the panel “War” [FCO 3799] Work not located This work won the Guggenheim National Award in 1956.



Exhibitions: São Paulo Museum of Modern Art. São Paulo Biennial. July 2, 1955., (8) Wildenstein. Candido Portinari. April 16, 1959., (6) Palace of Fine Arts. Works by Candido Portinari. July 4, 1958., (6) Musée National d'Art Moderne. Prix Guggenheim - 1956. Nov. 28, 1957., (11) Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Guggenheim International Award - 1956. March 27, 1957.

Credits: Story

Executive Director: João Candido Portinari
Curatorship and Research: Maria Duarte
Texts: Projeto Portinari
Copyright Projeto Portinari

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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