Castro Maya Collection

Museus Castro Maya

The Collection of Museus Castro Maya / IBRAM-MinC (Museu do Açude, Museu da Chácara do Céu - Rio de Janeiro, RJ)

The Castro Maya collection has an eclectic profile based on multiple interests. The approximately 17,000 items cover the plastic arts as well as applied arts, decorative arts, and book collections. The plastic arts total about 3,500 pieces, divided into the collections of oriental art, Braziliana, modern Brazilian art, Brazilian folk art, and European art from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as a few examples of classical pieces and works from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The fashion for collecting associated with the 19th century inspired the accumulation of the first items in the Castro Maya collection. Objects of the decorative arts, mainly oriental, acquired in France or in trips to the East predominated in this period.

The preoccupation of Brazilian modernism with a project of national identity that encompassed the issues of art, history, and heritage, which was exemplified in the dichotomy of tradition and modernity, aroused the interest of the Brazilian elite in collecting images and records of the nation's past. It led to a great interest in the collection of Braziliana. Naturally it became a mission for the Castro Maya collection to collect Braziliana, reassembling its past and its individuality.

The piece originally belonged to a Baroque church in Minas Gerais and was acquired by Castro Maya in Congonhas in the first half of the 20th century.

Confirming his interest in building a collection with great emphasis on works of art related to the history of the country, Castro Maya acquired this canvas in 1950. It is part of a set of works produced by the Flemish artist Franz Post, who was a member of the delegation of Maurice of Nassau who arrived in the country in 1637. They are the first images of the lands of the New World painted by Europeans from direct observation.

In this picture, the painter portrays a sugar plantation in the Northeast in full flow of sugar cane processing and sugar production, as well as the tropical vegetation that so enchanted the European gaze.

Castro Maya's collection of Braziliana was considered the most important private collection in Brazil in the 1950s, a highlight being more than 500 original works by Jean-Baptiste Debret.

During the 19th century, it was foreign artists who recorded images of Brazil. Romantic Europe harbored a great interest in distant territories laden with exoticism and eagerly sought knowledge of environments and societies so different from their own.

The portrait of Brazil composed by Debret between 1816–31 remained abroad for about a century until Castro Maya repatriated these works from France in the early 1940s.

Two oil paintings by Nicolas Antoine Taunay, one of the main painters participating in the French Artistic Mission which arrived in Brazil in 1816, were acquired by Castro Maya's father in Parisian auctions in 1892. Later, Castro Maya doubled this number with the purchase of paintings belonging to Djalma da Fonseca Hermes. In 1953, the works were shown in the II Biennial of São Paulo in a room dedicated to the Brazilian Landscape until 1900, to which the Castro Maya collection contributed 11 works.

The work was acquired by Castro Maya in 1923 at an exhibition of French art in Rio de Janeiro and marks the beginning of his activity as an art collector. At this moment, in his first acquisition, Castro Maya shows an affinity with the selection parameters that guided the formation of his father's collection. He tended towards the paintings of contemporary artists, displayed in the rooms and with a predominantly realistic theme, albeit slightly idealized, but which ensured a pattern of narrative and readability without incurring the aesthetic rupture articulated by Impressionism.

The profile of the Castro Maya collection derives, to a large extent, from the aspiration to create a panorama of the evolution of modern artistic movements, with an international horizon, from Constantin Guys to abstraction, through Impressionism, Cubism, and other schools. Meanwhile, the son of a collector, Raymundo, inherited his father's vocation as well as a series of paintings of French landscapes from the mid 19th century. The most significant works by prominent members of the Barbizon school, such as Theodore Rousseau, and Félix Ziem, or the Courbet Realist School, had been sold at Paris auctions or art galleries between 1890–1920.

In the 1940s, the painting belonged to the Marques Rebello collection and as such featured in the exhibition Contemporary European Painting organized by Castro Maya to inaugurate the activities of the Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro, of which he was founder and president until 1952. In 1961, Castro Maya had the opportunity to add it to his collection through a purchase made at the Barcinsky art gallery in Rio de Janeiro. Participating in the early stages of Cubism, Metzinger wrote the Du Cubisme treatise in 1912, in collaboration with Albert Gleizes, which proposed a theoretical basis for the movement.

Of the Brazilian artists associated with academy painting who are included in the Castro Maya collection, it can be said that all are painters who presented formal and thematic innovations in relation to the canonical standards of the time.

The Castagneto canvas, by its aesthetic treatment, directly recalls a transition painting to modern art, more concerned with the issues of coloring, luminosity, and the artist's personal expression.

Visconti was traditionally "read" at the time as a national impressionist and therefore a direct predecessor of modernism.

The painting, which previously belonged to the Correa de Araújo collection, exemplifies, to a certain extent, some of the ideas postulated by Brazilian modernism, and its ambitious project to represent national life and to affirm the specific traits of our culture.

It has a more modern, formal language which presents the elements that construct a portrait of nationality, with emphasis on popular culture in the figure of the couple from the lowest strata of society and in the room decorated with bright colors, the Brazilian flag and symbols of popular religion.

Castro Maya was a patron and friend of Brazilian artists of his time, especially Candido Portinari, with whom he developed many projects from the 1940s until the artist's death. This relationship of twenty years resulted in the accumulation of 168 original works, including paintings, drawings, engravings, and illustrations of books, making this one of the greatest public collections of the painter's work.

From 1950, pieces from northeastern ceramists and paintings by popular and emerging artists become part of the Castro Maya collection, the first acquisition being a batch of Vitalino figures. Castro Maya marked his participation in the process of recognition and acclaim that popular or regional art would receive from the intellectual elites.

In the 1950s, the Castro Maya collection began to rely on non-figurative works. They are all aligned with the informal currents of abstraction, characterized by the expression of the artist's subjectivity and generally by lyricism or emotion, as opposed to constructive aspects, in which works are distinguished by geometric forms.

Credits: Story


The Collection of Museus Castro Maya / IBRAM-MinC (Museu do Açude, Museu da Chácara do Céu - Rio de Janeiro, RJ)

Text Edition: Anna Paola Baptista
Operational Support: Virgilio Luiz Gonzaga Júnior
Photography: Jaime Acioli; Horst Merkel; Google Arts & Culture Team

Credits: All media
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