Modern Where? Modern When? The Modern Art Week of 1922 as Motivation

By MAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

By Aracy Amaral and Regina Teixeira de Barros

Exhibition room of Modern Where? Modern When? The Week of 22 as a motivation at MAM São Paulo (2021) by MAM São PauloMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

The exhibition

The upcoming celebrations of the Modern Art Week centennial have motivated us to reflect on the events that took place at the Theatro Municipal de São Paulo in February 1922 and the role these events played in establishing modernism in Brazil.

More than proposing an assertive appreciation, the exhibition "Modern Where? Modern When?", at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, resumes the subject in light of new perspectives, avoiding off-the-rack replies, crystallized by the current voice.

Common sense preaches that the Modern Art Week of 1922 was a game-changer between the old and the new, between the “past-ism” and “modernism.” However, if we look into the production—artistic, musical, architectural, literary—that came before the Week and allow ourselves to consider (...)

(...) other parts of the country besides São Paulo— we will find countless pieces of evidence that the Week was part of a broad (and discontinuous) process which extrapolates it, both in time and space. 

Given that, we searched for paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs that would express an innovative intention—in the compositions, in the execution or the subject addressed—regardless of date and production site.

Therefore, the exhibition presents not only artists and artworks that participated in the event at Theatro Municipal—not always as modern as one would imagine—but also works developed by artists who came before them and who succeeded them.         

Given the need to define a period for this show, we have chosen the period between 1900 and 1937, the turn of a new century and the implementation of the Estado Novo [Getúlio Vargas’s dictatorship], respectively. Strictly speaking, more than a milestone per se, (...)

(...) 1900 represents the spirit of the Belle Époque and, as such, accepts some elasticity. Thus, the oldest paintings in this exhibition date from 1889 (by Abigail de Andrade and Estevão Silva); Almeida Júnior’s piece was painted ten years later, still before the turn of(...)

Topics on the agenda, such as urban renovations, are exemplified through different artistic languages: the remodeling carried by Pereira Passos in Rio (painting by Eliseu Visconti), the railway station of Mayrink (project model by Victor Dubugras), and Valério Vieira’s fun soiree (photomontage).

The violist (1899) by Almeida JúniorMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

Almeida Junior, The Violist, 1899

oil on canvas
141 × 172 cm
Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo Collection. Transferred from the Paulista Museum, 1947.
Photo: Karina Bacci

Mulata (1927) by Alfredo VolpiMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

Alfredo Volpi, Mulatto, 1927

oil on canvas pasted on wood

59.5 × 50 cm
MAM São Paulo Collection. Donated from Carlo Tamagni, 1967

São Paulo's Court of Justice (1902) by Valério VieiraMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

Valério Vieira, Court of Justice of São Paulo, 1902

photography

38 × 58 cm
Sonia and Cadu Balady Collection
Photo: Sonia Balady

The issue of national identity, a trendy subject throughout the 19th century, enters the 20th century and becomes explicit in the regionalism of Almeida Júnior; metonymically, it passes by the still lives of tropical fruit by Estevão Silva and the folk festivals, (...)

(...) represented by Rodolfo Chambelland in an ebullient Carnival scene. Attractive subjects for a painter of modern life—such as work and leisure—stand side by side with subjects characteristic of the artistic universe: models, studios, and self-portraits. 

Apocalyptic, critic, or humorous, the imagination makes itself present in the painting by the Manaus-born artist Manoel Santiago, in the illustrations by Alvim Corrêa, and in the photo collages by Valério Vieira.

Goeldi's works by Oswaldo GoeldiMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

Works by Oswaldo Goeldi at the exhibition

These works by Goeldi at the exhibition Modern Where? Moderno When? are part of the collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Purchase by the Government of the State of São Paulo, 2011. Photo: Karina Bacci

Oswaldo Goeldi, Women in the mangrove, 1925

woodcut on paper

17 × 15 cm
Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Purchase by the Government of the State of São Paulo, 2011.

Oswaldo Goeldi, Nuit paisible, 1924

woodcut on paper

23.1 × 21.7 cm
Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Purchase by the Government of the State of São Paulo, 2011.

Oswaldo Goeldi, Woman and man in top hats, 1930

woodcut on paper

37.8 × 30 cm
Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Purchase by the Government of the State of São Paulo, 2011.

Oswaldo Goeldi, Lights, 1930

woodcut on paper

11.6 × 12.4 cm
Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Purchase by the Government of the State of São Paulo, 2011.

O. Goeldi, Vultures and the house in the background, 1925

woodcut on paper

25.5 × 29.5 cm
Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Purchase by the Government of the State of São Paulo, 2011.

View of the exhibition with work by Brecheret in the foreground. Photo: Karina Bacci by MAM São PauloMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

If this list of artists amounts to a concise sampling of the modern trends that came before the Modern Art Week, other figures emerge after the event and are equally meaningful to the diversification and the ripening of modern art in Brazil. The attempt to translate the (...)

(...) idea of Brazilianness in one image, for instance, is printed in the childhood reminiscences of Cícero Dias—represented in the exhibition by the magnificent artwork "Eu vi o mundo..." [I saw the world...]—in the pride of the marine families fixed by Alberto da Veiga Guignard, (...)

(...) in the landscapes of Tarsila do Amaral’s “Pau-Brasil” phase, in the popular char- acters captured by Di Cavalcanti (post- Week) and Lasar Segall. In contrast to the solar paintings by the largest part of these artists, the images engraved by Oswald Goeldi refer to a nocturnal Brazil, haunted by bleakness and death. 

As the 1930s advances, the Brazilian types start to mirror especially in the farm and blue-collar workers. Art takes on an engaged tone in the paintings by Candido Portinari and by Raimundo Cela, as well as in Lívio Abramo’s engravings. On the other hand, (...)

(...) the surrealistic winds left marks in the anthropophagic painting of Tarsila do Amaral, in the essentialism of Ismael Nery, in the Chagallian figurative painting of Cícero Dias, and even in theological questionings of Flavio de Carvalho  (both in painting and theater).

Fragment: Temple of My Race (1921) by Victor BrecheretMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

Victor Brecheret, Fragment: Temple of My Race, 1921

Foundry in 1998
bronze sculpture
45 × 181 × 26 cm
Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo Collection. Protocol of Intent between the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, the National Museum of Fine Arts, Banco Safra and Sandra Brecheret Pellegrini, 1998.
Photo: Isabella Matheus

Men at Word (1922) by Zina AitaMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

Zina Aita, Men at work, 1922

oil on canvas

22 × 29 cm
private collection
Photo: Jaime Acioli

Coconut trees (1930) by Regina Gomide Graz/John GrazMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

Regina Gomide Graz/John Graz, Coqueiros, Dec 1930

cotton and wool

99 × 125.5 cm
Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Donation from the John Graz Institute, in process. Photo: Isabella Matheus

The exhibition "Modern Where? Modern When?" by Romulo Fialdini (2021) by MAM São PauloMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

It is worth highlighting that the artists present in this exhibition (participating or not in the Modern Art Week of 1922) were either immigrants who settled in Brazil or were born in Brazilian cities from differ- ent parts of the country.  

It is a fact that many have settled at least part of the time in Rio de Janeiro, whether intending to attend the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes [National School of Fine Arts] or to be closer to the artist and intellectual circles that longed for renewal, or even using the capital of the country as a steppingstone for Europe 

Rio de Janeiro was without a doubt a city that wanted to become modern and that brought together a large part of the artistic and intellectual elite. How- ever, in 1922, Rio de Janeiro prioritized the celebrations of the Brazilian Independence—in great fanfare, one might add—a fact which had occurred a hundred years before.  

Meanwhile, wealthy São Paulo (that is, the São Paulo elite connected to the coffee culture) strived to erect the image of a city focused on the future, in tune with the most recent European trends.

View of the exhibition Modern Where? Modern When? (2020) by São Paulo Museum of Modern ArtMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

In this sense, the Modern Art Week of 1922 can be interpreted as part of a Paulista political project, whose discourse went in the opposite direction of the discourse engendered by the people in Rio de Janeiro at that precise moment.

Still, we must repeat that the Modern Art Week does not come out as an isolated fact—and that São Paulo was not the only city in the country with modern aspirations. 

View of the exhibition "Modern Where? Modern When?" by Romulo Fialdini (2021) by MAM São PauloMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

The difficulties and injunctions that sprang from the Covid-19 pandemic have required a drastic adjustment of the preliminary project to the new reality. We have kept the premises mentioned above, but the number of artists and artworks has suffered a sharp reduction, to allow for a safe and ventilated circulation. 

We chose to present a set of iconic—as much as possible, considering the countless refusals— and representative pieces from each artist’s production, with no intention of exhausting the possibilities.

A selection of book and magazine covers, cartoons, popular and classical music was densified in a unique projection and is part of a chronology with images of the main political, social, and cultural events that took place between 1900 and 1937.  

Carnival in Madureira (1924) by Tarsila do AmaralMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

Excerpts of poems and manifestos released during that period illustrate the situation of the arts and literature and complement the wide scenario of modernism in Brazil, in which the Modern Art Week, among other milestones, is inserted.

Photo: Isabella Matheus

Brazilian landscape (1925) by Lasar SegallMAM, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

Text by

Aracy Amaral
Regina Teixeira de Barros

curators

Minidoc of the exhibition Moderno where? Modern when?

Mini-documentary about the exhibition "Where modern? Modern when? The 22nd week as motivation", produced by MAM São Paulo. With the participation of curators Aracy Amaral and Regina Teixeira de Barros, and Cauê Alves, the museum's chief curator.

Credits: Story

Excerpt of text by Aracy Amaral and Regina Teixeira de Barros published on the exhibition's catalogue.
Views of the exhibition photos by Karina Bacci and Romulo Fialdini.
MAM São Paulo Communications Team: Eloise Zadig Pereira Martins (coordinator), Caio Raposo (designer), Jamyle Rkain (analyst) and Teresa Cristina (analyst)

The exhibition had works by the artists Abigail de Andrade, Alberto da Veiga Guignard, Alfredo Volpi, Almeida Júnior, Alvim Corrêa, Anita Malfatti, Antonio Garcia Moya, Antonio Gomide, Antonio Paim Vieira, Artur Timótheo da Costa, Candido Portinari , Carlos Oswald, Cícero Dias, Eliseu d'Angelo Visconti, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti, Estevão Silva, Flavio de Carvalho, Gregori Warchavchik, Ignácio da Costa Ferreira (Ferrignac), Ismael Nery, Joaquim do Rego Monteiro, John Graz, Lasar Segall, Lívio Abramo, Manoel Santiago, Oswaldo Goeldi, Raimundo Cela, Regina Gomide Graz, Rodolfo Chambelland, Tarsila do Amaral, Valério Vieira, Vicente do Rego Monteiro, Victor Brecheret, Victor Dubugras, Wilheim Haarberg and Zina Aita.

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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