1940 - 1962

Photography and modern architecture in Brazil

Instituto Moreira Salles

Marcel Gautherot and Oscar Niemeyer

The relationship between photography and modern architecture was established between the years 1930 and 1950 in a close and deep way.

Several architects of the period maintained a long relationship with photographers of their preference, such as Le Corbusier and Lucien Hervé in France, Richard Neutra and Julius Shulman in the U.S., and Oscar Niemeyer and Marcel Gautherot in Brazil.

The language of modern architectural photography is strengthened in the 1940's and many photographers continued this paradigmatic relationship of the image as a mediator of work and architectural design.

[Ministries of Brasilia, under construction] 

To join the current architectural discourse, a building needed to be photographed and published in specialized architecture and design magazines and visual communication channels that improved in quality during this period because of advances in the printing industry.

For photographers who were precursors of architectural photography in Brazil between the 1940's and 1960's such as Marcel Gautherot,...

[National Congress, under construction]

...Chico Albuquerque,...

[Glass House - project by Lina Bo Bardi]

[Oca building, under construction - project by O. Niemeyer]

[CBI Esplanada Building]

...Hans Günter Flieg,...

[Duchen Peixe Factory - project by O. Niemeyer]

[Ibirapuera Park gymnasium]

...Thomaz Farkas...

[Interior façade of the São Borja building]

[Pacaembu stadium, São Paulo]

[Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro]

[Grating of the Santa Ifigênia overpass]

[Side façade of the building of the Ministry of Education and Health, Rio de Janeiro]

...and José Medeiros, modern architecture will also become major mover for formal trials of geometric composition, which symbolizes modern photography in Brazil.

Marcel Gautherot was the photographer chosen by Oscar Niemeyer for documentation and photographic interpretation of his architectural work.

[National Congress Building]

Marcel Andre Felix Gautherot was born in Paris on July 14, 1910, the son of working-class father and a seamstress. His formal education in architecture and arts began at age 15...

...while he was an apprentice, he enrolled in evening architecture courses at the Ecole National des Arts Decoratifs on October 10th, 1925, but he did not complete his courses.

Within five years, Gautherot developed his academic and practical experience as architect, in line with the emergence of the modern movement in architecture.

The Pavilion "Esprit Nouveau" designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret for the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925 marks the negation of decorative art and affirmation of architecture as pure creation of the spirit...

...based on the harmony of shapes and the primacy of geometry and functionality, announcing the housing of the future as a "machine for living".

In 1930, Marcel Gautherot participated in the Congress Sohlberg meeting between young French and German liberals, communists and socialists students, who oppose the growing nationalism of the period.

His “Discours sur l’architecture francaise”, a manifesto of principles about the architecture of its time, largely extracted from the writings of Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus ideals, is a clear defense of the "esprit nouveau" and modern architecture.

[Cathedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida]

The assertion of Le Corbusier, "The architecture is a shrewd, correct and magnificent play of volumes brought together in light" as well as his understanding of "light based architecture" is directly related to the subsequent assertion of Gautherot that...

..."photography is architecture", for whom even "a person who did not understand the architecture would not be able to make a good photograph".

This convergence, by consequence, between photography and architecture...

[Alvorada Palace]

...based on light as a structuring and modeling element of the formal and aesthetic decisions of both the architect and the photographer...

...will follow the trajectory of Gautherot since the mid-1930s, when he begins to devote himself primarily to photography, constantly pointing to this strong synergy between the concept of Gautherot about photography and his vision of modern architecture, built from the principles postulated by Le Corbusier.

[Cine Brasília]

This synergy was fully revealed in the period between 1940-1960 in which he established himself as the main photographer of modern architecture in Brazil.

Quote of Oscar Niemeyer on Gautherot (2010): "For many years, Marcel Gautherot was our favorite photographer.

We did innumerable trips together all over Brazil! He photographed buildings that we designed. Pampulha, Brasília, São Paulo....

How well we got along together and laughed, pleased with this dear old fellow! And the pictures that he took...

Marcel Gautherot  knew how to find the appropriate points of view and the contrasts of architecture that he understood so well!

He passed by the Amazon with all his sensibility shooting the wealth of those areas that to him, as a European, rather than us, were a delight!

One day our friend was gone and with him we lost a little of all of us".

Credits: Story

Curator — Sergio Burgi
Assistant 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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