1940 - 1960

Pioneer women photographers in São Paulo

Instituto Moreira Salles

Hildegard Rosenthal, Alice Brill and Madalena Schwartz in the archives of Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS).

The European crisis of the late 1930s leads to an intense emigration of professionals, intellectuals and European artists for the Americas since before the Second World War, being in Brazil the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro the main destinations of these immigrants from East Europe and other nationalities, largely of Jewish origin , who settled here and worked in various areas of industry, communications and visual arts, decisively contributing to the modernization of these sectors in the second half of the 1940s . 

The decades from 1940 to 1960 in São Paulo thus represent a single point of convergence of several vectors that led to an intense cycle of industrialization and cultural development of the city in the post -war period, which will be reflected directly in communications and visual arts country. In photography, specifically three women photographers who immigrated to Brazil in this period contributed significantly to the development of this medium in the country .

Considered one of the pioneers of Brazilian photojournalism, Hildegard Rosenthal (1913-1990) recorded landscapes and cityscapes of São Paulo, human types and portraits of personalities from the cultural and artistic milieu of his time. She lives through adolescence in Frankfurt, Germany, where she studied pedagogy (1929-1933). Lives in Paris between 1934 and 1935. Back in Frankfurt, studied photography with Paul Wolff (1887-1951) - a specialist in small format cameras - and laboratory techniques in Gaedel Institute. As a result of the Nazi regime, she moved to São Paulo in 1937. 

In this same year starts working as advisor in the laboratory of Kosmos company of photographic materials and services. A few months later, she is hired as a photojournalist at Press Information Agency and produces stories for national and international journals. During this period, documents São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and the southern cities of Brazil . Her photos remain little known until 1974, when the art historian Walter Zanini produces a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, University of São Paulo - USP - MAC. In 1996, the Instituto Moreira Salles ( IMS ) acquires more than three thousand negatives of her work.

A few months later, she is hired as a photojournalist at Press Information Agency and produces stories for national and international journals. During this period, documents São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and the southern cities of Brazil . Her photos remain little known until 1974, when the art historian Walter Zanini produces a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, University of São Paulo - USP - MAC. In 1996, the Instituto Moreira Salles ( IMS ) acquires more than three thousand negatives of her work.

Madalena Schwartz (1921-1993), born in Hungary, immigrated to Argentina in 1934, where she lived until the 1960s, when she sets residence in Brazil. Began studying photography at Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante in 1966. In the 1970s she published photographs in magazines such as Iris, Planeta, Cláudia and Status, among others. She makes her first solo exhibition at MASP (Museu de Arte de São Paulo) in 1974.

Between 1979 and 1991 she worked for Globo Television Network and collaborates with Editora Abril. In 1983 receives the award for best photographer of the Paulista Association of Art Critics - APCA. 

Some of her best known pictures are portraits of artists, musicians and Brazilian intellectuals, such as Manabu Mabe, Bibi Ferreira, Paulo Autran, Mario Schemberg and Pietro Maria Bardi. She also made essays on the underground theater, especially a series of photos of transvestites and drag queens for the book Crisálidas, published in 2012 by Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS). The work of Madalena, with over 16 thousand images, preserved by IMS, consists of portraits of São Paulo´s artists and public figures in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as anonymous faces registered during trips to the North and Northeast of Brazil.

Daughter of an artist who died in a concentration camp, Alice Brill (1920-2013) was born in Cologne, Germany, and migrated to Brazil in 1934 with her mother to escape the Nazis. Decided to embrace the paternal craft, already in 1940 started attending the Santa Helena Group, an informal association of painters who attended workshops on Sé Square in Sao Paulo, known as “Palacete Santa Helena.” 

Her teachers were Paulo Rossi Ozir, Aldo Bonadei, Yolanda Mohaly, Poty and Hansen Bahia, influencing her to work with oil paint. In 1946, she won a scholarship and until 1947 makes a number of courses at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and the Art Student 's League of New York, both in the United States. Studied drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, art history, literature, philosophy and has her first contact with photography.

Already back in Brazil, starts working as a photographer for Habitat magazine, for which conducts reports on architecture and fine arts. Her long career has resulted in over one hundred solo and group exhibitions, including the São Paulo Art Biennial in 1951. She was a founder of the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo (MAM-SP), the Artists and Friends of São Paulo Club and the Brazilian Association of Researchers in Art. In 1975 she graduated in Philosophy from PUC - SP and later a master's and doctorate in Aesthetics at USP . 

Published three books: Mario Zanini and his time (Ed. Perspective, 1984), The art and language (Ed. Perspective, 1988) and Flexor (1990), and the chapter on the book Expressionism (ed. Jacob Ginsburg, Ed Perspective, 2002).

In 2005, a retrospective World of Alice Brill was held with part of her photographic production since then belonging to the collection of the Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS). The collection of images by German photographer Alice Brill consists of approximately 14,000 negatives of the most intense period of her production, from 1948 to 1960. 

These are spontaneous portraits of families and personalities with whom she lived by exercising the painting , his other artistic activity ; documentary photos of the Xingu Indians, taken during the Roncador- Xingu Expedition; pictures of Carajas Indians in Mato Grosso and photos of the artistic works of interns at the Juqueri Psychiatric Hospital, in São Paulo. She also produced a significant record of São Paulo city, on the occasion of its fourth centenary, and Ouro Preto and Salvador, among others.

The activity of these three photographers in São Paulo´s art circuit from the 1940s to the 1960s occurs in the same period that Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante, an organization of amateur and professional photographers that reflected the dazzling and creative post war artistic scene in São Paulo city, grows in importance. During those years, Thomaz Farkas, Geraldo de Barros, German Lorca and Chico Albuquerque, joinned Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante, who will have an outstanding production in the decade 1945-1955. 

The work of these photographers constitute the formative aspect of Brazilian modern photography, undertaking a strong formal and abstract bias, based on constructions of light and shadow from the landscape, architecture, objects, or still lives, besides portraiture. Hildegard, Alice and Madalena experience and contribute directly to this moment of renewal of the arts and photography in the country.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a new generation of photographers would be added to the São Paulo and Brazilian photography´s scenario, through the work of Maureen Bisilliat (http://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/exhibit/maureen-bisilliat/gRj- tw8Q ? hl = en), Claudia Andujar and Nair Benedicto, among other names of women who contribute to the modern and contemporary photography in the country, building a legacy for Brazilian photojournalism and for the generation of photographers and visual artists who develop in Brazil, from the years 1980 and 1990, photography as a language which is both autonomous as well as fully integrated into the visual arts circuit.

Credits: Story

Curator — Sergio Burgi
Curator — Joanna Balabram

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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