In 1909, Roberto Rodrigues, at only 13 years old, published his first drawings in a children's magazine, and, at 17, entered the National School of Fine Arts (ENBA), impressing teachers and colleagues with his modernist style. His acid criticism, pronounced loudly or in writing to the teachers and ENBA's directors, especially as regards the Official Salons of the institution, did not prevent him from being awarded honorable mentions twice. A close friend of Candido Portinari, he shared a studio with him and, often, the company of his family.
A designer and illustrator, his work features the firm black and white lines typical of the graphic drawings of the period, influenced by art deco and art nouveau, but above all, by the nineteenth-century English illustrator, Aubrey Beardsley, in the representation of a tragic, erotic, feminine, and often subversive universe. Death runs through various themes in his drawings.
His drawings documented human existence, depicting characters from this modernized city; but they are rooted in a morality typical of Latin American countries, whose treatment of women and discourse on gender equality slid into the marginalization of the "emancipated" woman. The woman is treated as an object of desire. Female bodies are portrayed in the foreground, exposed to desire, voluptuousness, and sensuality.
- I'll bring you this turkey! Her husband
sends for his jacket and the silver baton.
he has to play today at a great banquet
and has no time to come home.
The turkey was big, showy. The wife
let him out into the chicken coop and gave to the bearer
the jacket, the ankle boots, the
silk tie, and baton.
At night, the maestro arrived for dinner.
His wife's eyes widen. (...)
— And the banquet, dear?
— What banquet, woman?
Extracted from the text "The princes of 'escroquerie' and the vicar's tale." Illustration for the text "The princes of 'escroqerie' and the vicar's tale," Crítica newspaper
Hand-in-hand, everything is confused:
Independent Favela dwellers and enslaved overseers!...
Fishmongers of the new City
Grocers of Mangue Canal
Manicurists of Catete
Dutiful daughters of Largo da Lapa
Retired colonels failed in the ranks
Gigolos cocaine junkies
Hicks from Goyas and Niterói.
Roberto, um certo Rodrigues
Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
De 13 de Janeiro a 29 de maio de 2016