Roberto, a certain Rodrigues

Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

Roberto, a certain Rodrigues
This exhibition presents part of a very rare set of drawings made in india ink and gouache by the artist Roberto Rodrigues in the 1920s for the Rio press. At the time, Rio de Janeiro, then the Federal capital, brought together the elite of the Brazilian intelligentsia. Through his illustrations, a universe of anguish, despair, and death is experienced by Roberto, a young and talented artist. He died prematurely at the age of 23, three days after being shot in the editorial office of the Rio de Janeiro family newspaper "Crítica," following the publication of an article that discussed the real reason for the separation of the journalist and writer Sylvia Seraphim Thibau and the doctor João Thibau Junior. Sylvia, disgusted with the publication of the story, which insinuated adultery as the reason for the separation, went to the newspaper office in search of Mario Rodrigues. In his absence, she was received by Roberto, who took a shot near the stomach and did not survive his injuries.

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.

The conjunction of the drawings and illustrations presented by Roberto Rodrigues has life as an overarching theme, and death and fantasy as its opposites.

- 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.

Sebastião Fernandes

You passed by to smile at my agony.

I open my eyes wide at your smile,
Like someone in a dark and gloomy house

Opens windows for the sun to enter.

Where had she come from, where would she go?

This someone passing by, smiling at me,
In a familiar way?

Gilka Machado

Credits: Story

Roberto, um certo Rodrigues
Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

De 13 de Janeiro a 29 de maio de 2016

Cláudia Rocha
Daniela Matera

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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