Portinari Project

The history of the project preserving for 40 years Candido Portinari's legacy

By Projeto Portinari

Head of Indian Man (1938) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

"...Portinari’s aesthetic, political and ethical dreams, revitalized in this strong and tender Project that bears his name, like a guarantee of a people’s hope and dignity..."

Célia Linhares
Professor Emeritus, Fluminense Federal University (UFF)

Portinari, o pintor: um famoso desconhecidoProjeto Portinari

Famous but Unknown.

Seventeen years after Candido Portinari’s death, O Globo newspaper would publish Portinari, the Painter. Famous but Unknown. Over 95% of the work by the greatest contemporary Brazilian painter is now in private collections and inaccessible to the public. What happened to the work of a man who spent his entire life passionately expressing the Brazilian life, people and soul?

Tiradentes (1948) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Writer Antonio Callado had already said this as well: "[...] Candinho is becoming invisible. Will our greatest painter continue to be dismembered, like the Tiradentes he painted?"

Portrait of João (1959-07) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

In 1979, the Portinari Project was born. Its director, João Candido, addressing his father in a posthumous preface-letter that introduces the Portinari Project’s first publication, says: "[...] It is as a Brazilian that I feel it’s my duty to work so that all of us may reencounter your work, and through it ourselves."

Shantytown (1957) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

“Brazil has manifest its will to meet the future in its own way, developing its immense capacity for originality. Retrieving, strengthening and preserving Brazil’s cultural identity is a prerequisite for empowering the Country to build its own destiny. Art is a powerful instrument for cultural engagement, essential to the vitality of any society. It synthesizes a people’s creative endeavors, its ways of organizing, its customs and traditions, its labor and its leisure, its dreams and its victories. The Portinari Project proposes contributing to this cultural engagement in an undertaking that begins with Candido Portinari’s work, life, and exchange with his contemporaries.”

The Original Mission of the Portinari Project, excerpt from the document “The Portinari Plan” João Candido Portinari, 1978.

Samba (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Initially dedicated to systematically, meticulously and thoroughly reviving the life and work of Candido Portinari and the era in which he lived, the Project also allows the artist’s work to serve the greater goal of finding our cultural identity and preserving our national memory.

Woman and Children (1940) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

In addition, it contributes to a wide-ranging socio-cultural effort that enhances understanding about Brazil’s cultural and historical development. It also reaches out directly to children and young people, applying the social and human values seen in Portinari’s art to encourage reflection about what is happening in Brazil and the world.

Os homens e suas casas Os homens e suas casas (1982-04-14)Projeto Portinari

Antonio Callado sees and describes the Portinari Project’s pioneering initiative as follows: “In the house of French architect Grandjean de Montigny there is an undertaking of love and technique that seals Portinari’s work for future generations... I myself have never seen in Brazil such thorough and intelligent work to keep an artist’s memory alive… a landmark endeavor: this is how a country stands firmly in its cultural roots...”

Projeto Portinari: visão conjunta da obra pela primeira vez aqui Projeto Portinari: visão conjunta da obra pela primeira vez aqui (1985-04-30)Projeto Portinari

For many years the Portinari Project was only visible in the form of an audiovisual presentation, which continues to tour throughout Brazil and in European countries, Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, the USA, etc.

The presentation features Professor João Candido Portinari showing not only the work of the Project and the painter’s life and times, but also over 200 works, bringing the public something that the painter himself never saw: a view of his life’s work, unprecedented and with a scope far beyond the collection of any one location, museum or private collection.

Obra de Portinari poderá ser digitalizada Obra de Portinari poderá ser digitalizada (1983-06)Projeto Portinari

The Portinari Project’s revival of Portinari’s life, work and times involves recording, organizing and researching information, as well as digitizing images.

Um projeto para redescobrir Portinari Um projeto para redescobrir Portinari (1985-01-08)Projeto Portinari

In this regard, the Project has already achieved the following results:

- cataloging of 5,300 paintings, drawings and prints attributed to the painter, as well as over 25,000 documents related to his work, life and times;
- research on the authenticity of the works (“Project Brushstroke”);
- digital processing of the images;
- organization of the correspondence file (over 6,000 letters) and the collection of historical photographs, films and clippings from over 10,000 periodicals, books, monographs, texts and memorabilia;
- recording of more than 70 interviews with artists, intellectuals, politicians, friends and relatives of Portinari, with over 130 hours recorded (“Oral History Program”);
- publication of the Catalogue Raisonné "Candido Portinari – Complete Works", the first publication of this kind in all of Latin America.

Portinari por inteiro Portinari por inteiro (2004-08-11)Projeto Portinari

“...One of the most important cultural events of the new century for both Brazil and Latin America. Brazil’s greatest painter is the first Latin American artist honored with a catalogue raisonné. The catalogue’s publication is one of the most significant accomplishments of one Brazil’s — and the world’s — most extraordinary cultural endeavors: the Portinari Project, directed by the artist’s only son, João Candido Portinari.

(...) Portinari’s trajectory is a slice of Brazil, its culture, its life and its history (...) Candinho painted and recreated our country, holding before us key figures who helped build a nation. He lived and breathed painting, and his work conscientiously articulated a liberating vision of the exploited and outcast.

(...) Now the means are at hand for Brazil and Portinari to meet: May this catalogue be acquired by every public institution that can extend the work of our greatest painter to the Brazilian people and all peoples desiring to understand our identity in its most sensitive and profound expression. No one knows Brazil who does not know the work of Candido Portinari.”

Emir Sader, “Candido do Brasil,” Jornal do Brasil, 9/4/2004

Carta aos brasileiros Carta aos brasileiros (2002-12-31)Projeto Portinari

The Portinari Project’s socio-cultural activities involve bringing the artist’s work to the public, for example with the first retrospective exhibition of Portinari’s work, held in 1997 at the Assis Chateaubriand São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP); publishing and/or participating in publications related to Portinari; creating material to promote Portinari’s life and work;...

Interlaced Hands (1955) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

... planning and carrying out the “War and Peace Project,” which included restoring the panels in a studio open to students and the public in general, at the Gustavo Capanema Palace in Rio de Janeiro, as well as public exhibitions in Brazil and abroad.

Pintura do Brasil Pintura do Brasil (2000-01)Projeto Portinari

The Project’s socio-educational activities are conducted by the Art Education and Social Inclusion Department, which implements teaching and learning programs that directly associate Portinari’s work with the principles of peaceful society.

Among others, we note the traveling exhibition “Portinari's Brazil”; the project “If I Were Portinari”; the exhibitions “Portinari – Art and Science” and “Portinari’s Time”; the project “Portinari – Art and the Environment”; the educational program of the “War and Peace Project”; and the project “Portinari – The Painter’s Little Chest,” whose first program focused on literature, associating the artist’s work with the book Plantation Boy, by José Lins do Rego, with the second program focusing on the relationship between Portinari’s painting and environmental issues.

Visitante da exposição O Brasil de Portinari no Pantanal, em frente à obra de PortinariProjeto Portinari

Projeto Portinari: a arte utilizando a informática Projeto Portinari: a arte utilizando a informática (1984-10-21)Projeto Portinari

It is also important to highlight that ever since its founding in the science area of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, the Portinari Project has sought to engage with other fields of knowledge, especially science and technology, creating and adapting new methodologies and techniques that may be useful for researchers and institutions involved in similar pursuits.

Projeto Pincelada: pintura Gangaceiro, detalhe by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

A matemática da pincelada A matemática da pincelada (1999-11)Projeto Portinari

One of the greatest challenges faced by Project Portinari was, without a doubt, the question about detecting fake works. In 1990, the Professor João Candido Portinari and his colleague George Svetlichny, from the Department of Mathematics at PUC-Rio, had the idea of opening a new venue to approach this old problem: the analysis of the brushstrokes' morphology. The idea was to find some sort of “fingerprint”, embedded in a sufficiently representative sample of strokes taken from authentic paintings and hope that they determine their author.

This work was presented at the "Second International Conference on Hypermedia and Interactivity in Museums --- ICHIM", University of Cambridge, 1993, and was met by the audience as an original proposal.

Recently,Professor Arne Jensen,from the Department of Mathematics of Aalsborg University, in Denmark, started to collaborate with the Portinari Project, aiming to prove their initial assumption. In November 26th,2009, the Portinari Project was happy to receive his message:

“...Our PhD student has programmed the algorithm in Matlab, and the results are amazing. Based on 8 genuine and a few false scans, the genuine ones are clearly distinguishable from the forgeries. So the assumption that the brush strokes characterizes the painter is confirmed ... "

Mãos de Portinari (1953)Projeto Portinari

In recognition of its work, the Portinari Project earned from poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade the following words: “Quietly the Project’s workers go about their business, but they must be surrounded by trust and affection from those who see tomorrow’s Brazil rising from the hands and spirit of today’s Brazilians.”

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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