Portinari's Time

Portinari was a magnet that represented the aesthetical, artistic, cultural, social, and political worries of his generation. Get to know the personalities of his time.

Portrait of Adalgisa Nery (1937) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Adalgisa Nery (1905-1980)

Portraits, studies and many photos comprise the archive of documents relating to friends Adalgisa Nery and Portinari. Poet Adalgisa Nery was born September 29, 1905, in Rio de Janeiro. Having lost her mother when she was eight, she went to a Catholic school, from which she was expelled for defending the “orphans,” who at that time were mistreated because they were considered to be inferior. She went only as far as elementary school. When she was sixteen, she married her neighbor, painter Ismael Nery — one of the heralds of Modernism in Brazil. The marriage lasted until the painter’s death in 1934. In 1940, she married journalist and lawyer Lourival Fontes. She accompanied her husband on diplomatic missions, in New York, from 1943 to 1945, and as Ambassador to Mexico, in 1945. Her marriage to Fontes lasted 13 years. She became a journalist, writing for the Última Hora newspaper. She was elected to the House of Representatives three times, and then in 1969 her political rights were revoked. She died June 7, 1980.

Portinari com Adalgisa Nery, 1937, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portrait of Aníbal Machado (1931) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Aníbal Machado (1894-1964)

In 1943, story writer, essayist and teacher Aníbal Machado wrote in the Diretrizes newspaper about Portinari’s exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts: "Portinari organized and presented to the public such an impressive selection of his creations. A varied, rich and daring exhibition – capable of sparking discussion and excitement, of calming and stirring." Aníbal Machado was born in Sabará, Minas Gerais, in 1894, and spent most of his childhood in the city of his birth. He went to elementary school in Belo Horizonte and high school in Rio de Janeiro, where he began studies at the Free School of Law. In 1913, he returned to Belo Horizonte and completed his Law degree, in 1917. During this period, the Vida de Minas magazine published his literary texts. In 1923, he moved to Rio de Janeiro, and his home soon became one of the city’s important cultural hubs, where writers, visual artists and theater artists gathered. He wrote his first story - O Rato, o Guarda-Civil e o Transatlântico in 1925, which was published in the magazine Estética. He participated in the second phase of the Anthropophagic Movement. During the 1930s, he and Apparicio Torelly (the Baron of Itararé) founded the short-lived periodical O Jornal do Povo. He wrote for magazines and literary supplements of important newspapers, such as Correio da Manhã and Diário do Povo. He died in Rio de Janeiro in 1964.

Viagem a Minas Gerais, 1937, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Letter Letter, Aníbal Machado, 1945-10-04, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Sobre Portinari Sobre Portinari (1943-07)Projeto Portinari

Portrait of Antonio Bento (1932) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Antonio Bento (1902-1988)

In addition to being Portinari’s biographer, Antonio Bento was a master of critique and of art history. His primary work on the painter was the book Portinari, published in 1981 and re-released in commemoration of the Candido Portinari Centennial, in 2003. In the words of Jayme de Barros, the book "is the missing monument to Portinari’s glory. In it, the master from Brodósqui appears in the full measure of his grandeur, which is the size of Brazil." Antonio Bento was born in Araruna, Paraíba, in October of 1902. In 1926, he worked with Mário Pedrosa at the Diário da Noite newspaper as a music columnist. He conducted folklore research with Mário de Andrade, who based characters in his book Macunaíma on Antonio Bento and other friends. He was a member of the Artistic Commission and Director of the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro, between 1960 and 1962. With countless works of aesthetic analysis and interpretation, he became established as one of the leading promoters of modern art in our country.

Portinari com Antonio Bento, 1956, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portrait of Antonio Callado (1957) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Antonio Callado (1917-1997)

"When Portinari’s casket was carried from the ministry in a fire truck on the morning of the 8th, from the glass buildings, from the Ministry of Education building, from the newsstands, from the cafés suddenly silenced by the strains of the funeral march and the national anthem, thousands of faces turned toward the procession, like those in Portinari’s Shantytowns, Musicians and Migrants. Thousands of anonymous creatures bid farewell to the painter, gazing for the last time upon the clear and subtle wizard who had captured them forever in shafts of light and beams of color. As if in the darkened mirror of the artist’s life there was one last flash of all it had reflected while alive." At noon, Candido Portinari was lowered into the earth of Saint John the Baptist by an entire multitude." The words of Antonio Callado, Portinari’s biographer. He was a life-long friend of the painter. Callado was born in Niterói on January 26, 1917. Although he held a Law degree, he never practiced law. He worked in the daily press from 1937 to 1941, working for newspapers O Globo and Correio da Manhã. In 1941, in the midst of WWII, he moved to London, where he worked for the BBC until 1947. He debuted in literature in 1951, creating primarily works for theater that received enormous critical and public acclaim. During the 1970s, he gained momentum in writing novels and published the book considered the period’s most important, Quarup. Antonio Callado died on January 28, 1997.

Retrato de Antonio Callado, 1957, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portrait of Arthur Rubinstein (1940) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982)

Another admirer of Candido Portinari’s art was pianist Arthur Rubinstein. Portinari painted his portrait in 1940. That same year, the pianist purchased two of Candinho’s works, paintings Young Women of Arcozelo (1940) and Wedding in the Country (1940). Arthur Rubinstein was born in Lodz, Poland, on January 28, 1887. He became a United States citizen and was known as one of the 20th century’s greatest pianists. He began playing piano when he was only three years old. At age six, he played publicly for the first time. He began studying at the Warsaw Conservatory at age eight. He continued his studies in Berlin, giving a recital in 1900. In 1919, he came to Brazil, when he met Villa-Lobos. He took an interest in the Brazilian musician’s compositions and was responsible for promoting his most famous works. As a tribute to him, Villa-Lobos wrote his Rudepoema. Stravinsky dedicated to him his Three Movements from Petruschka – considered his most difficult piano work. In 1928, he met Aniela Mlynarski, who he went on to marry in 1932. This marked a turning point in his technique, and after a period of intensive study he performed in the USA in 1937. He died in Geneva on December 20, 1982.

Arthur Rubinstein, 1940, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Letter Letter (1953-12-29) by Athos BulcãoProjeto Portinari

Athos Bulcão (1918-2008)

At the age of four, painter Athos Bulcão was already making drawings. Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1918, he committed his life to the visual arts in 1939, when he left medical school. In 1943, Bulcão met Oscar Niemeyer, who commissioned him to design the exterior tiles for the Municipal Theater of Belo Horizonte. The work was never finished and the panel never made. In 1945, at age 27, he worked as Candido Portinari’s assistant for the panel of São Francisco de Assis, at the Pampulha church, in Belo Horizonte. It was a serious and intensive apprenticeship that six months later earned him an internship at the artist’s studio, in Rio de Janeiro. He died in Brasília in 2008.

Portrait of Augusto Meyer (1937) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Augusto Meyer (1902-1970)

Portinari’s friendship with poet and journalist Augusto Meyer was so close that at one point the poet wrote to Candinho: "Old Friend, I miss you. The real thing, an itching of the soul like I have chiggers. I have this wild urge to go to Pires de Almeida Street and spy on my friend’s house, tap on the door, and chat tentatively." Augusto Meyer was born in Porto Alegre in 1902. In addition to being a poet and journalist, he wrote essays and worked to preserve Brazil’s history and folklore. He was a member of the Brazilian Academy of Literature and the Brazilian Academy of Philology. He wrote for numerous newspapers in Rio Grande do Sul, including Diário de Notícias and Correio do Povo. His literary debut took the form of a book of poetry called A ilusão querida, but he became famous for his books Coração verde, Giraluz and Poemas de Bilu. In 1937, Getúlio Vargas invited him to organize the National Book Institute. He died in 1970.

Letter Letter, Augusto Meyer, 1937-10-28, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portrait of Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1936) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987)

Considered one of Brazil’s greatest poets, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, born in Minas Gerais in Itabira do Mato Dentro on October 31, 1902, shared with Candido Portinari more than a great friendship, as the correspondence between them attests. The exchange of letters, in fact, is characteristic of this generation of Brazilian artists, who through their writing strengthened their ties and reflected on the aesthetic issues that motivated each. The talent of the author of The Rose of the People blended with Portinari’s brushes in a meeting of rare beauty between poetry and painting. It is a collection of 21 poems by Drummond and 21 pencil on cardboard drawings by Portinari of the unforgettable Dom Quixote de La Mancha and his loyal companion Sancho Pança, famous characters from world literature created by Spaniard Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century. With these verses, Drummond simultaneously gives a reading of Cervantes’ work and Portinari’s prints. In this extraordinary work, the graceful dialogue between painting and poetry reflect the power of two artists in perfect aesthetic and poetic communion. When Candido Portinari died in February of 1962, Drummond, whose portrait his friend had painted, dedicated to him the poem The Hand. In it the poet revisits images and themes from the painter’s work and laments the loss of a companion who “flew to never more.”

Portrait of Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Candido Portinari, 1940, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Letter Letter (1939-04-06) by Lucio CostaProjeto Portinari

Celso Antonio (1896-1984)

From the generation of Brazilian Modernism, painter and sculptor Celso Antônio Silveira de Menezes was born in Caxias, Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 1896. Of reserved temperament, the talent of this contemporary of Candido Portinari was acknowledged and celebrated by none less than poets Manuel Bandeira and Carlos Drummond de Andrade, as well as by architect and urbanist Lúcio Costa. In fact, at the architect’s invitation he began teaching at the National School of Fine Arts. In 1934, he taught at the Art Institute of the former Federal District University, along with Candido Portinari, who taught painting there. One of his works, the stone sculpture titled Moça reclinada [Reclining Girl], is part of the landscaping of the suspended gardens of Rio de Janeiro’s historic Palácio Capanema building, together with Portinari’s tiles and sculptures by Bruno Giorgi and Jacques Lipchitz, just to name a few of the artists who contributed to making the building an open-air work of art. Although he was respected and honored by his peers , Celso Antônio never received the recognition due the greatness of his work and life as an artist. Disturbed by this, in a tribute following the sculptor’s death, writer Otto Lara Rezende argued that Brazil must, albeit after the fact, satisfy its debt for the artistic legacy of Celso Antônio Silveira de Menezes.

Análise iconográfica da pintura monumental de Portinari nos Estados Unidos Análise iconográfica da pintura monumental de Portinari nos Estados Unidos (1976-01)Projeto Portinari

Clarival do Prado Valladares (1918-1983)

“An uncommon man. ” With these words, landscape artist Roberto Burle Max defined Clarival do Prado Valladares, born in Salvador, Bahia on September 26, 1918. He held a degree in Medicine and specialized in Pathology at Harvard University and in Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Moreover, learned in literature, art and philosophy, Clarival do Prado Valladares earned a place in Brazil’s intellectual and artistic life as one of its most important art critics and historians. A contemporary of the foremost leaders of Brazil’s intelligentsia, literature and art, like the great poet Joaquim Cardoso, painter Cícero Dias and sociologist Gilberto Freire, Clarival do Prado Valadares was above all responsible for a collection of Art History studies, among them Aspects of Religious Art in Brazil, Art and Society in Brazilian Cemetaries, Baroque Rio and Neoclassical Rio. His immense intellectual production gave notable attention to the painting of Candido Portinari, including the 1965 book Análise iconográfica da pintura monumental de Candido Portinari [Iconographic Analysis of Candido Portinari’s Monumental Painting]. The critic considered that the distinguished nature of Portinari’s work contributed decisively to generating a new aesthetic sense in Brazil.

O sentimento comunitário na obra de Candido Portinari O sentimento comunitário na obra de Candido Portinari, 1971-01, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portinari e auxiliares (1955)Projeto Portinari

Enrico Bianco (1918-2013)

The year was 1937, and it had been six months since Italian painter Enrico Bianco had come to Brazil, the country he would later adopt as his second homeland. Friend Paulo Rossi, also a painter, suggested he visit the work that Portinari was making for the Ministry of Education, to see Candinho’s art. When he arrived, the Italian artist found only the assistants: Burle Marx, Inês and Rubem Cassa. Seeing they were having trouble painting, in fresco, the hand of a prospector, he offered to help. And he painted alone. Some time later, Candido Portinari arrived and asked, with a master’s intuition: “Who painted that hand?” The three pointed to Bianco, who had retreated to a corner wishing he had never come. After a few minutes, Enrico Bianco said good-bye to Portinari, who excitedly asked him: “Where are you going?” “Home,” said the Italian painter. And Portinari extended his hand with the same straight face and said, “But you’ll be back tomorrow, right?” It was the beginning of a close friendship between master and apprentice. The Hand of Prospector (1937) is still there, where it was originally painted. In many paintings by Italian Enrico Bianco, born in Rome in 1918, Candido Portinari's influence is clear. Among the highlights of the partnership between Candido and Bianco are the murals of the Ministry of Education and Culture - MEC (1938), the panels of the Banco da Bahia (1952), and the War and Peace panels (1952 - 1956), a present from the Brazilian government for the UN headquarters building. He died in Rio de Janeiro in 2013.

Letter, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Quatro paineis de 8 metros de comprimento! Quatro paineis de 8 metros de comprimento!, 1936-05-23, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Viagem à Itália (1956-05)Projeto Portinari

Eugenio Luraghi (1905-1991)

Author of numerous books of prose, verse and painting critique, four of which are dedicated to Candido Portinari’s work. In March of 1955, the book Disegni di Portinari is published in Italy, with an introduction by Eugenio Luraghi, released in four languages and containing 103 reproductions of the artist’s work. Italian magazine Dramma portrays Portinari as “the greatest painter in Latin America, one of the greatest alive.” It is just at this time that the discussion in Brazil about abstract vs. representational art heats up, with Portinari a favorite target of the rising abstractionist faction. Luraghi headed and organized the City of Milan’s great Portinari Exhibition (1963), and in 1974 he helped with the painter’s show at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. He was born in Milan, Italy in 1905. With a PhD in Economic Sciences, he managed key industries for many years. He died in 1991.

LetterProjeto Portinari

Portinari entre amigos (1944)Projeto Portinari

Francisco Mignone (1897-1986)

The composer was born on September 3, 1897 in Rio de Janeiro.Pianist and conductor Francisco Mignone, along with Villa-Lobos and Lorenzo Fernandes, holds the title of most important Brazilian composer, and he is part of the constellation of talents with which Portinari associated and worked. In 1946, Rio de Janeiro saw the debut of the Ballet Iara, performed by the Original Ballet Russe. With music by Francisco Mignone and story by poet Guilherme de Almeida, the show featured 45 costumes designed by Candido Portinari and five panels the painter made especially for the set. The partnership with other masters was a landmark in Francisco Mignone’s career. The musician, like Portinari, became friends with writer Mário de Andrade. He wrote some of his most important work in collaboration with him, including the Church Festival suite and the ballad Maracatu do Chico Rei, in addition to the Work Symphony. In the early 1950s, Francisco Mignone became director of the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro and of the Brazilian Conservatory of Music, and was also a founder and teacher of the Brazilian Academy of Music.

Criação de "ballets" com motivos brasileiros Criação de "ballets" com motivos brasileiros (1942-06-03)Projeto Portinari

Portrait of Graciliano Ramos (1937) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Graciliano Ramos (1892-1953)

In 1937, Graciliano Ramos went to Portinari’s studio to sit for a portrait. During the session, as the writer sat immobile on the chair he was able to look out of the corner of his eye at the painting Festival of Saint John (1936 - 1939), which was hanging on a nearby wall. Ramos had kept up with newspaper reports about the painting, which seemed completed at last. But each time the two friends met, Ramos noted that the work had undergone changes based on the master’s desire. The details were transformed from color one day to black and white the next. Correction was made to a boy climbing a palm tree; a girl with a can on her head was modified. Graciliano Ramos paid close attention to a group of children symbolizing the slum’s purity, especially drawn to a vibrant mullato girl lit up with a beautiful smile. Until the day he could no longer resist, and asked: "Hey, Portinari, you’re not going to make any more changes to this child…?..."; "No. I think I’m done." And the writer gave a sigh of relief. But on another visit to the painter he would find his little friend reworked , no longer bearing that smile. "A strange man, Portinari. Extremely exacting, indifferent to the tastes of others, capable of spending years refining a painting (...)" - Excerpt from an article by Graciliano Ramos in O Jornal, published in 1943. Ramos was born in Quebrângulo, Alagoas on October 27, 1892. He was the first of 15 children born to a middle class family from Brazil’s northeastern backlands. He went to high school in Maceió. He did not go to college. In 1914, he went to Rio de Janeiro to work as a proofreader for newspapers Correio da Manhã and A Tarde. He debuted in literature in 1933 with the novel Caetés. In 1934, his novel São Bernardo was published, and in 1936 Anguish was released. The novel Barren Lives, written in 1938, is his most important work. He died in Rio de Janeiro on March 20, 1953.

Portinari com Graciliano Ramos, 1952-08, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Letter Letter, Graciliano Ramos, 1946-02-13, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Monumento da Juventude by Epaminondas .Projeto Portinari

Gustavo Capanema (1900-1985)

“In my mind’s eye I still have a strong image of your painting – The Last Bulwark (1942) – which I consider a work of great beauty.” These were the words of then Minister of Education Gustavo Capanema to Portinari, in one of the letters they exchanged in 1942. His fascination with the painter’s work, would lead to major work for the Gustavo Capanema Palace, a building considered an icon of Modern architecture in Brazil and abroad. The design of the Palace also included many pieces of art. Portinari contributed the following works: the Economic Cycles series (1941), Children’s Games (1944), the Four Elements series (1945) and the two tile panels (1951). Gustavo Capanema Filho was born in 1900 in the city of Pitangui, Minas Gerais. He completed a Law degree and from college on associated with the group of intellectuals from Bahia Street, in Belo Horizonte, which included Milton Campos, poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade and others who would become important political and literary figures in Brazil. Capanema was responsible for important developments, such as creation of national institutions like the University of Brazil, the present day Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), the Secretary of Historical and Artistic Heritage (SPHAN) and the Book Institute.

Letter Letter, Gustavo Capanema, 1942-12-07, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Renascimento da pintura mural e a arte brasileira de Portinari Renascimento da pintura mural e a arte brasileira de Portinari, 1938-04-02, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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A arte moderna e o governo A arte moderna e o governo (1951-02-04)Projeto Portinari

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)

Conductor Heitor Villa-Lobos and Portinari frequented the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro. When they went out during intermission, people would approach them and congratulate the two on their work and talent. In his simplicity, Portinari talked to all of them, thanking them for their attention. Until one day his friend, always a bit more serious, elbowed him, saying: "Portinari, are you going to talk to everybody?" Born in 1887 in Rio de Janeiro, Heitor Villa-Lobos became known as a revolutionary who prompted a break with academic music in Brazil. In 1903, he completed his basic schooling at the Monastery of Saint Benedict. In the period 1905 to 1912, he took his famous trips to the country’s North and Northeast. He was impressed by the musical instruments, the circle songs and the improvising poets, the repentistas. His experiences later inspired O Guia Prático [The Practical Guide], a collection of folklore songs designed for music education in the schools. In 1915, the first concert of Villa-Lobos’ compositions was performed. At this time, he had already composed his first pieces for guitar - the Suíte Popular Brasileira – pieces for chamber music, symphonies and the ballads Amazonas and Uirapuru. In 1919, he performed his String Quartet No. 2 in Buenos Aires. In the 1922 Modern Art week, he participated in the three performances at the Municipal Theater of São Paulo, presenting, among other works, Danças Africanas and Impressões da Vida Mundana. In 1945, he founded the Brazilian Academy of Music. He died in November of 1959 .

Portrait of Jorge Amado (1934) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Jorge Amado (1912-2001)

“Candido Portinari elevated us with his work as a painter. He was one of the most important men of our time, because his hands gave birth to color and poetry, drama and the hope of our people. He deeply touched our world with his brushes. The land and people of Brazil — peasants, migrants, children, saints and circus performers, animals and the landscape — are the material he used to build his enduring work.” The words of Jorge Amado, a close friend of the painter. Jorge Amado was born August 10, 1912 in Itabuna, Bahia. He was one of the most famous and frequently translated Brazilian writers of all times. More of his works have been adapted for Brazilian television than any other writer, most notably the highly successful Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, Tereza Batista: Home from the Wars, Tieta, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands and Tent of Miracles, among others. The writer’s works were also adapted for cinema and stage and inspired samba songs for Carnival. His books have been translated and published in over fifty countries. His characters made their way into street names and businesses and became associated with product brands. The author was also recognized by the Brazilian Academy of Literature and received honorary degrees from European universities.

Portinari entre amigos, 1952-08, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Escritores comentam herança de Portinari Escritores comentam herança de Portinari, 1997-11-25, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portrait of Jorge de Lima (1939) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Jorge de Lima (1895-1953)

In 1935, poet Jorge de Lima was interviewed by the Diário Carioca newspaper and talked about Portinari’s art. He said that Candido Portinari "achieves a vibrant and very real lyrical density (...) He paints like a romantic, sweetening the creature with the miracle of poetry." Jorge de Lima was born in União dos Palmares, Alagoas in 1895. As a young man, he studied Medicine in Salvador. In 1914, he was already a well established doctor. This year, he became politically active and debuted in literature with the book XIV Alexandrinos, a work with features of Parnassianism. In 1921, he gained renown as a “prince of poets” based on a literary competition promoted by the newspaper Correio da Tarde, in Maceió. He wrote prose, television serial dramas, short stories and novels. His work is characterized by elements of Christianity, regionalism, urban influence and social commentary. In 1925, he was elected to the City Council and three years later became Council president, in Rio de Janeiro. He died in 1953.

Portinari Portinari (1935-11-03)Projeto Portinari

Portrait of José Lins do Rego (1939) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

José Lins do Rego (1901-1957)

Candido Portinari had finished reading Fogo Morto by writer José Lins do Rego, published in 1942, and was fascinated by the literary world the novelist had created. In each character shaped by the words of Lins do Rego, Portinari found an equivalent in the universe of his paints. The simple rural life was alive in the book as well. Everything he read could live in the world of his family and his work. In 1944, José Lins do Rego wrote for O Jornal: "I heard the Master recognize the people I had brought to life through my entrails, my blood, the sweat of my brow. And there’s nothing dearer to a novelist than to feel that the life he tore from his entrails is real life, the life lived and endured by others." José Lins do Rego was born June 3, 1901 in the city of Pilar, Paraíba. He came from an established family of cane mill operators and spent his entire childhood on a sugar cane estate. In addition to being a writer, he was a journalist and part of the second generation of Brazilian Modernism. He was one of the most important novelists of modernist regionalism, along with Graciliano Ramos and Érico Veríssimo. His first novel was published in 1932, Plantation Boy, illustrated by Candido Portinari (1958) and praised by the critics of the time. The novel Fogo Morto, which established him as a master of regionalism, is considered his masterpiece. In 1956 he became a member of the Brazilian Academy of Literature and published a book of memoirs called Meus verdes anos [My green years]. He died the following year on September 12, 1957 in Rio de Janeiro, leaving Brazilian literature a major legacy.

Reunião Social, 1955-01, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portinari e os meninos Portinari e os meninos, 1944, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Don Quixote and Sancho Panza Heading Out on Their Adventures (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

José Olympio (1902-1990)

In the words of writer and memorialist Antônio Carlos Vilaça, José Olympio was a “discoverer of writers.” This may be the phrase that best describes this São Paulo native born December 10, 1902 in the city of Batatais, São Paulo. He became a key figure among Brazil’s intellectuals beginning in the 1930s, when at only 28 years of age he founded the publishing house Casa José Olympio Livraria e Editora. In the 1940s and 1950s, José Olympio established himself as the country’s largest publisher, just as he had gained renown as a revolutionary in the publishing industry. His home and publishing house became a gathering place for the most famous figures in Brazilian literature. The Editora José Olympio published works by Manuel Bandeira, the three Andrades (Carlos Drummond, Mário and Oswald), Jorge Amado, Graciliano Ramos, Guimarães Rosa and others. As was only natural, Portinari was also invited by the publisher to illustrate the book of chronicles Viagem, by his friend Graciliano Ramos, and Raízes, written by poet José Paulo Moreira da Fonseca. The partnership between José Olympio and Portinari also gave birth to a set of 21 pencil on cardboard prints for a possible edition of the novel Dom Quixote de La Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes. The Editora José Olympio abandoned the idea, but in 1972 poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade wrote 21 poems based on Portinari’s drawings, and the following year released the exquisite Quixote, which blends the painter’s sensibility with that of the poet, as well as excerpts from Cervantes classic work. In 1964, José Olympio published Poemas de Candido Portinari [Poems by Candido Portinari], with a preface by poet Manuel Bandeira.

Portinari entre amigos e familiares, 1955, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portrait of Juscelino Kubitschek (1960) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Juscelino Kubitschek (1902-1976)

The War and Peace panels, a present from the Brazilian government for the UN headquarters in New York, commissioned in 1952, had been completed on January 5, 1956. The commission was delivered to the Minister of Foreign Relations, Macedo Soares. When the panels were about to be shipped to the UN, there was an outcry in Brazil calling for them to be shown to the Brazilian public, this one chance also being the last. So on February 24, 1956, then President Juscelino Kubitschek opened the doors of the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro for a multitude to reverently share the magic of the panels. That was actually the first and last time Portinari had the experience of seeing them, raised to their full monumental size. In his improvised speech, Juscelino Kubitschek said: “I congratulate the Brazilian people for this admirable display of art that will soon go to the United Nations to show all the peoples of the world the power and beauty of Brazilian art.” Prior to the panels, Kubitschek had commissioned Portinari to make the works for the Pampulha Church, in Belo Horizonte (1944). Known for the slogan "50 years in 5," politician Juscelino Kubitschek was born in Diamantina, Minas Gerais in 1902. He was mayor of Belo Horizonte (1940-1945), governor of Minas Gerais (1951-1955) and president of Brazil (1956-1961). He was responsible for building Brasília as the country's capital. He died in 1976.

Portinari com o presidente Juscelino Kubitschek, Flávio Damm, 1958, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Autorizou Kubitschek verba para a exposição do painel "Guerra e Paz" Autorizou Kubitschek verba para a exposição do painel "Guerra e Paz", 1956-02-22, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Letter Letter (1931) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Lúcio Costa (1902-1998)

In 1931, Portinari wrote a letter to his friend Carlos Drummond de Andrade asking the poet to speak to the new Minister of Education, Francisco Campos, on behalf of Lúcio Costa so that the architect would continue as director of the National School of Fine Arts (ENBA). Lúcio Costa’s leadership and innovative measures met with approval from the painter and many other artists in the modern movement. The daring changes to the ENBA’s structure and spirit earned the General Exhibition (1931) the title the Revolutionary Salon. Born in Toulouse, France in 1902, Lúcio Costa was a pioneer of Modernist architecture in Brazil, known world-wide for his Pilot Plan for Brasília. Another highlight among the works the architect contributed to is the Gustavo Capanema Palace (1936-1947), which was signed by a team of huge names, such as Oscar Niemeyer and Carlos Leão. He lived in many different countries over the course of his life and came back to Brazil in 1917. He attended the architecture course of the National School of Fine Arts. He formed a partnership with Ukrainian architect Gregori Warchavchik, who built the first residence in Brazil considered modern. Like Oscar Niemeyer, he became well-known for his designs for public buildings.

A próxima exposição Candido Portinari A próxima exposição Candido Portinari (1932-05-18)Projeto Portinari

Coluna Prestes (1950) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Luís Carlos Prestes (1898-1990)

Luís Carlos Prestes was born in Porto Alegre in 1898. He studied Engineering at the Realengo Military School, in Rio de Janeiro. In 1922, still in Rio de Janeiro, he attended meetings in defiance of the Federal Government on July 5, which sparked the series of Tenente revolts. He commanded what was known as the Prestes Column between 1925 and 1927, which earned him tremendous military and political prestige as well as the title Knight of Hope. He married young German Communist Olga Benário in 1931, in Moscow. In 1935, Olga and Prestes gained clandestine entry into Brazil and remained until March, when the police apprehended them. Even though she was pregnant, Olga was turned over to the Gestapo - the German police - and was sent to a Nazi concentration camp, where she gave birth to Anita Leocádia Prestes. Affiliated with the Communist Party of Brazil since 1945, Candido Portinari respected Prestes’ political stance and the two developed a solid friendship. In addition to the three portraits he painted of the politician who shared his ideals, the painting Coluna Prestes (1950) and the panel Tiradentes (1948 - 1949), Portinari also gave the face of the martyr Prestes’ features. In 1962, the Communist leader, still in hiding, came to Candido Portinari’s memorial service beside companion Carlos Marighela. This historic scene testifies to Portinari’s importance to others of his generation (inconceivable in other circumstances), which also brought side by side the country’s former president, Juscelino Kubitschek, Hermes Lima, representing President João Goulart, and the anti-Communist leader and governor of Guanabara State, Carlos Lacerda.

O Cavaleiro da Esperança O Cavaleiro da Esperança, 1948, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portrait of Manuel Bandeira (1931) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Manuel Bandeira (1882-1968)

"Portinari is not only the greatest painter of all the time, he is the one example among all the arts of the power of the people subject to the artist’s discipline completed by science and by the unerring instinct for beauty” – the words of Manuel Bandeira, Portinari’s close friend and an admirer of his work. Bandeira, along with Mario and Oswald Andrade, formed the main trio of the first modernist phase that solidified the movement in our country. The poet was born in Recife in 1882. He studied in Rio de Janeiro and then enrolled in the Architecture program in São Paulo, but he was forced to leave when he was struck by tuberculosis. He went to numerous cities in Brazil and Switzerland for treatment, in the latter meeting French Dadaist and surrealist Paul Éluard. The Frenchman introduced Bandeira to Europe’s art innovations, such as free verse in poetry. The poet lived 86 years and left Brazilian literature a rich legacy. He died in 1968.

Portinari com Manuel Bandeira, 1960, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Letter Letter, Manuel Bandeira, 1940-02-09, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portrait of Mário de Andrade (1935) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Mário de Andrade (1893-1945)

It was Mário de Andrade who brought Candinho’s talent to public attention. In 1931, a new director took over the National School of Fine Arts, architect Lúcio Costa. His liberal spirit led him to open the doors of the Fine Arts Salon to new names on the art scene: modern painters, sculptors, and poets. The change was so dramatic that it became known as the Revolutionary Salon, and Manuel Bandeira became its coordinator. While visiting the exhibition, writer Mário de Andrade went into a small room and came across a portrait of Manuel Bandeira, modestly presented with no special prominence. He saw in the catalogue that it was a certain Candido Portinari, who he had never heard of. Naturally, a novice. Beside the portrait of Manuel Bandeira was another painting by the same artist, Guitar Player (1931), which caught the writer’s attention. Afterward, in a conversation about the exhibition, Bandeira said: "I really like this painter Candido Portinari, who did that impressive Guitar Player. Who is he?” That’s when a young man came up, short and with big, clear blue eyes. This event was the beginning of a close friendship between the two. Mário de Andrade was born in São Paulo in 1893. A teacher, critic, poet, story writer, novelist and musician, he entered the 1922 Modern Art Week at the Municipal Theater of São Paulo. He founded the Society for Ethnography and Folklore and also served in numerous government positions, among them as director of the São Paulo Municipal Department of Culture. Despite his many different roles, he always had time to help still unknown writers. Throughout his life he fought for art with his clear and frank writing style. Convinced that the Brazilian intelligentsia needed to catch up with the times, this modernist writer always maintained his greatest virtues: artistic consciousness and intellectual dignity. He died in 1945 in São Paulo.

Residência de Portinari, Hart Preston, 1941, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Carta de Mário de Andrade a Manuel Bandeira Carta de Mário de Andrade a Manuel Bandeira, 1935-02-15, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portrait of Murilo Mendes (1931) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Murilo Mendes (1901-1975)

"You create a major opening for future Brazilian artists with this significant attempt to keep the frescos in the tropics," wrote Murilo Mendes in a letter sent to Portinari in 1937, encouraging the painter in his work. Murilo Mendes was born in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais on May 13, 1901. He began his studies near his place of birth and later moved to Rio de Janeiro to study at the Colégio Salesiano boarding school, in Niterói. In 1920, he moved to the capital, where he joined the Anthropophagic Movement. His first foray into literature was writing for two Modernist magazines - Terra Roxa e Outras Terras and Antropofagia. In 1930, his first book, Poemas, was released. His poetry examines the fate of humanity as a whole. In 1932, he wrote the poem História do Brasil. In 1934, he turned to religious themes and with Jorge de Lima wrote Tempos e Eternidade. In 1948, he wrote Janela do Caos. In 1953, he was invited to teach Brazilian Literature in Lisbon. From 1953 to 1955, he traveled to conferences throughout Europe promoting Brazilian culture. In 1957, he settled in Rome, where he also taught Brazilian Literature. He died in Portugal on August 13, 1975.

Portinari com Murilo Mendes, 1937, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Letter Letter, Murilo Mendes, 1937-03-15, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portinari instantâneo Portinari instantâneo (1940-02)Projeto Portinari

Portrait of Nicolás Guillén (1947) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Nicolas Guillén (1902-1989)

Communist colleague Nicolas Guillén wrote to Portinari in 1961, denouncing the US invasion of Cuba and expressing his desire that Portinari join the global protest against the brutal aggression on his country. In 1953, he wrote the poem Un Son para Portinari, dedicated to his friend. Nicolas Guillén was born on July 10, 1902 in Cuba and became known as “The Cuban Poet”. His production centered on two themes: exaltation of the Negro and social critique. Thanks to his poetic production, the racial issue gained prominence in Spanish literature. His Communist militancy cost him prison time and persecution. He died in 1989.

Portinari no Uruguai, 1948, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Un son para Portinari Un son para Portinari, 1953-07-11, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Saint Francis of Assisi (1944) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012)

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1907, the Brazilian recognized as the country’s greatest architect, Oscar Niemeyer. He was largely responsible for the architecture of Brasília, which earned him international recognition and important awards. He was also respected for his political views and during the military dictatorship was exiled for adopting a Communist stance. This architectural genius worked with Candido Portinari on the Pampulha Church in Belo Horizonte (1945). He was on the team of architects that helped design the Gustavo Capanema Palace (1936-1947), along with Lúcio Costa and others. Oscar Niemeyer also worked on the UN headquarters building in New York (1949 - 1952), the home of Portinari’s War and Peace panels (1952 - 1956). In a tribute to the painter, in 1990 Niemeyer designed the Portinari Museum, to be built in the future. The architect says of the project: "The idea of building a museum for Portinari’s work deserves the most enthusiastic support of all Brazilians. For me, who spent so many years in association with him, who followed with ongoing interest his development as a visual artist, it is a special joy. There are thousands of drawings, paintings and prints that Portinari gathered over the years that will now be shown to this city’s people and visitors. Thus it is with the greatest pleasure that I design this museum, a way to express, once again, my esteem for the old friend and great Brazilian that was Candido Portinari." He died in 2012 at the age of 104.

Um brasileiro construirá a sede da ONU Um brasileiro construirá a sede da ONU (1947-03-05)Projeto Portinari

Portrait of Oswald de Andrade (1935) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954)

"In Candido Portinari, Brazil has a great painter. More than teaching, he is an example. A painter initiated into the creation of art and the integrity of the trade, a man of his times washed in storming ideological currents. Not admitting neutral art, building on canvas the first figures of the titanic future – those who suffer and are exploited by capital.” These are the words of poet Oswald de Andrade about Portinari’s art. Oswald de Andrade’s work represents one of Brazilian Modernism’s sharpest breaks from past culture. It is no accident that he, together with Mário de Andrade, is one of the main leaders of the country’s Modernist Movement . Born in São Paulo in 1890 to a wealthy family, he studied Law and embarked on a career in journalism. In 1911, he founded the weekly magazine O Pirralho, which he directed, along with Alcântara Machado and Juo Bananère, until 1917, when it closed. In this same period, he defended Anita Malfatti from the criticism of Monteiro Lobato. He traveled constantly to Europe in search of artistic novelty. In 1926, he married Tarsila do Amaral, with whom he lived until 1929. In 1930, he married Communist journalist Patrícia Galvão (Pagu), and with her fought in the Communist Party until 1945. This period saw the birth of the seminal work Cannibalist Manifesto and the stage play The Candle King.

Letter Letter, Oswald de Andrade, 1900, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portinari entre amigosProjeto Portinari

Quirino Campofiorito (1902-1933)

Quirino Campofiorito was born on September 7, 1902 in Belém, Pará. During his life he was involved in the arts in many different ways. Among these were painting, drawing, critique and art history. In 1917, in Rio de Janeiro, he worked as illustrator for magazines Tico-Tico and Revista Infantil, and as a caricaturist for the periodicals A Maçã, O Malho, D. Quixote and A Máscara. He enrolled in a painting course at the National School of Fine Arts (ENBA) in 1920. He won the Foreign Travel Prize in 1929 and went to Paris, where he lived until 1932 studying at the Ateliê de Pongheon of the Académie Julien and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He returned to Brazil in 1935 and lived in Rio de Janeiro, where he published and ran, among others, the monthly Belas Artes, the first Brazilian periodical to deal exclusively with art, closed in 1940 under pressure from the Department of Press and Propaganda (DIP). After a brief time in Rio, he moved to São Paulo state, organizing and directing the Araraquara School of Fine Arts, where he taught painting until 1937. He was one of Portinari’s close friends. Among the documents gathered are numerous letters they exchanged talking about art and politics, as well as other things.

Letter Letter, Quirino Campofiorito, 1940-02-15, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Homenagem a Portinari (1939)Projeto Portinari

Rachel de Queiroz (1910-2003)

“When we Brazilian intellectuals feel discouraged from doing something that crosses the great barrier of silence behind which we live confined, we should think about Portinari. He alone, by the strength of his talent and work, was able to crack the crust of isolation, ignorance and unknowing that envelopes us, showing in Paris and New York things made here that have real value . Machado de Assis, Villa-Lobos, Portinari. We can at least trust these three, as in their shadow we can be sure there is someone to represent Brazil.” The words of writer Rachel de Queiroz, a great admirer of painter Candido Portinari. Rachel de Queiroz was born in Fortaleza, Ceará on November 17, 1910. She was the cousin of José de Alencar, author of The Guarani. In 1917, she and her family moved to Rio de Janeiro, which the writer would later use to inspire her first book, O Quinze, a socially rooted novel with a dramatically realistic portrayal of the people’s age old fight against poverty and drought. The first of many publications. She died sleeping in her hammock in 2003, in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Bienal Bienal (1959-11)Projeto Portinari

Portinari, Toulouse-Lautrec... e outras Portinari, Toulouse-Lautrec... e outras (1961-03-18)Projeto Portinari

Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994)

Born on August 4, 1909 in São Paulo. He was a draftsman, painter, sculptor, musician, set designer, costume designer and a designer of jewelry, carpets and gardens. His friendship with Portinari began at the Federal District University, where Candido Portinari was his teacher. The two worked together on the Ministry of Health and Education building in Rio de Janeiro, in 1938, and on the Architectural Project of Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, in 1940. From that time on his work was largely in conjunction with Oscar Niemeyer and other architects.

Portrait of Rubem Braga (1953) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Rubem Braga (1913-1990)

In one of the chronicles published for the periodical Revista, from 1946, writer Rubem Braga wrote: "His indisputable technical mastery – I don’t know anyone in Brazil who can draw and paint better than Portinari – is at the service of a daring and poetic man, sensitive to the earth and its people and bringing a heart as open as his eyes." Rubem Braga was one of the journalists captivated by Candinho’s work. This recognition and respect were reflected in this chronicle entitled Coração de Portinari [Heart of Portinari] and in other articles he wrote. Rubem Braga was born in Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, Espírito Santo in 1913 and was considered one of Brazil's best chroniclers. At age 15, he wrote articles and daily chronicles for Diário da Tarde. He earned a Law degree in Belo Horizonte, but never practiced law. In 1932 he covered the Constitutional Revolution in São Paulo and ended up imprisoned. He moved to Recife, where he wrote political chronicles for Diário de Pernambuco. In 1936, he released his first book of chronicles, “O conde e o passarinho”. He was a correspondent during World War II.

Letter Letter, Rubem Braga, 1953-07-29, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Coração de Portinari Coração de Portinari, 1946, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portrait of Vinicius de Moraes (1938) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980)

In 1940, the publication of Revista Acadêmica gave a tribute to painter Candido Portinari. Among the illustrious names were poet Vinicius de Moraes, who wrote Sonetinho a Portinari, poetry dedicated to the painting master: "The small painter / The great painter/ Bad as a poison / Good as a flower." Vinicius de Moraes was born on October 19, 1913, on a stormy day in Rio de Janeiro’s Jardim Botânico. He was a diplomat, playwright, journalist, poet and composer. Tom Jobim was the first to dub him the poetinha for his outstanding sonnets. His work is broad ranging and includes literature, theater, film and music. In music, he partnered primarily with Tom Jobim, Toquinho, Baden Powell, João Gilberto, Chico Buarque and Carlos Lyra. He was also famous for being a lady’s man. He married nine times over the course of his life. He died July 9, 1980 in his home in Gávea, in the company of Toquinho and his last wife.

O pintor e o poeta, 1958, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Candinho Candinho, 1940-02, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Homenagem a Graciliano Ramos (1942-10-29)Projeto Portinari

Portinari and friends at a dinner to celebrate Graciliano Ramos’s 50th birthday, at the Lido Restaurant. Among them: Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Lúcia Miguel-Pereira, Gustavo Capanema, Manuel Bandeira, João Condé, José Lins do Rego, Vinícius de Moraes, Moacir Werneck de Castro, and Jorge Amado.

Credits: Story

Executive Director: João Candido Portinari
Curatorship and Research: Maria Duarte
Texts: Projeto Portinari
Copyright Projeto Portinari

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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Portinari: Painter of the People
The life and art of one of Brazil's most celebrated artists
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