A Collection of the National Museum of Fine Arts, Rio de Janeiro
Candido Portinari (1903-1962)
The son of Italian immigrants he soon displayed his artistic vocation when as a child, while all the other kids were out playing, he would lend a hand at decorating the church of the town where he was born, the small village of Brodowski, in the State of São Paulo. In 1918 he moved to Rio de Janeiro and the following year successfully applied to the National School of Fine Arts where he studied painting and drawing with Brazilian artists of the time such as Lucilio Albuquerque and Baptista da Costa. In 1928 he was given the chance to travel abroad thanks to a grant awarded him by the National Fine Arts Fair for his painting "Portrait of Olegário Mariano”. For two years he traveled through a number of European countries, saw masterpieces by Giotto (c.a 1266-1337) and the works of Renaissance Master Piero della Francesca (ca. 14 15-1492), met with the great masters on the European scene of the time such as Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Giorgio De Chirico (1888-1978) and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).
In 1931 he returned to Brazil. The sculptural quality of his work gradually superseded his academic influences. His experiments in painting, though inspired by modern artists and movements such as Cubism and Surrealism, always hinged around a thoroughly Brazilian conception of art. Since then, he works have undergone a change in chromatic approach, with his palette shifting towards darker and more earthy hues, featuring themes ranging from childhood memories to poverty and the Brazilian people.
In 1935 his painting "Coffee", was awarded a prize by the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, USA, and Portinari became the first Brazilian modernist painter to be recognized abroad.
In 1936, following an invitation by Brazilian Education Minister Rodrigo de Melo Franco, he started working on a series of mural panels that illustrate the Brazilian economic cycles, to be installed in the palace of the Ministry for Education and Culture of Brazil.
Besides the panels, the artist also designed a tile project for the courtyard of the same building, combining Brazilian motifs with others tied to the country's Portuguese heritage.
Another work of great importance and beauty was the ceramic tile panel of the Capela da Pampulha facade, in Belo Horizonte (1944).
During the Fifties, the Brazilian government suggested Portinari to the Secretary General of the United Nations for the creation of the two large panels entitled "War and Peace" to be installed in the organisation's headquarters in New York. Portinari was awarded the "Guggenheim Prize" for these works and thus became one of the most important Brazilian artists in the country's history.
Besides his monumental works and his paintings, Portinari, like many modern artists, was called on by intellectuals, publishers and writers to illustrate certain specific publications such as the "Posthumous memories of Brás Cubas" and "The Alienist" by Machado de Assis (1839-1908),
His extensive artistic production has ensured that his fame has known no geographical or geopolitical boundaries, partly thanks to the many invitations he received from cultural and religious institutions abroad. Portinari's works speak of man to his fellow men, thus transforming his own artistic form of expression into a universal language.
Poisoned by the lead in the pigments he used in his paintings, Candido Portinari died on February 6 1962 in Rio de Janeiro, leaving behind him an extensive body of artistic works that in addition to being modern are also very distinctly Brazilian.
Portinari was not interested in portraying Brazil's provincial essence, nor an idealized Brazil. Portinari was instead primarily engaged in revealing the human side of his country's population.
Portinari, Mão Infinita
Coleção Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
Exposição realizada nn Palácio Pamphilj, Embaixada do Brasil, em Roma, em 2017