Life and works of Athos Bulcão

discover the key milestones in the artist's life and works.

By Fundação Athos Bulcão

Early years

Athos e sua irmã Dalila no Carnaval (1921)Fundação Athos Bulcão

1918

On July 2, Athos Bulcão was born in the neighborhood of Catete in the then capital, Rio de Janeiro. He spent part of his childhood in a spacious house in Teresópolis. 

Athos criançaFundação Athos Bulcão

Athos e seu pai, Fortunato BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Family

Athos lost his mother, Maria Antonieta da Fonseca Bulcão, to pulmonary emphysema before he was five years old. Along with his brother Jayme—11 years his senior—and his teenage sisters, Mariazinha and Dalila, he was brought up by his father, Fortunato Bulcão, a keen metalworker and a friend and associate of the writer Monteiro Lobato.

Getting started in the arts

1939

He left medical school so he could devote his time to painting. 

1939

He soon moved in with other painters, becoming friends with Carlos Scliar, Enrico Bianco, and Roberto Burle Marx.

Cena de bar - Vermelhinho (1946) by Athos Bulcão/Acervo particularFundação Athos Bulcão

Vermelhinho

Athos and his friends were regulars at Vermelhinho, the famous bar on Araújo Porto Alegre Street in downtown Rio de Janeiro, where he rubbed shoulders with journalists, writers, poets, artists, musicians, architects, and members of Rio's intellectual circles.

Sabará (1947) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo Museu de Arte Murilo Mendes, Universidade Federal de Juiz de ForaFundação Athos Bulcão

His friendship with Murilo Mendes

In 1940, he became friends with the poet Murilo Mendes. The following year, he was selected for the National Exhibition of Fine Arts (Modern Division), where he won the Silver Medal for drawing and painting.

1943

He met Oscar Niemeyer, who commissioned him to make the external tiles for Belo Horizonte's Municipal Theater. Athos never completed the work and the panel was never made. That same year, he became friends with the writer Lúcio Cardoso.

Ilustração para o conto Julita de Francisco Pereira da Silva (1947-02-16) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo Biblioteca NacionalFundação Athos Bulcão

1946

His second individual exhibition, which was held at the headquarters of the Brazilian Architects Institute, caused a huge controversy among critics, attracting negative reviews from Santa Rosa and Quirino Campofiorito. He started working with the A Manhã newspaper as an illustrator for their Literature and Arts supplement.

Athos Bulcão em Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (1948)Fundação Athos Bulcão

1948

He designed the scenery for The Tell-Tale Heart, the Lúcio Cardoso theatrical adaptation of the story by Edgar Allan Poe. He received a study grant from the French government. He set off for Paris, where he studied drawing at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and took lithography courses in Jean Pons's atelier.

Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

1949

He received an honorable mention in a drawing competition at the Cité Universitaire. He featured in the album Ten Artists from Latin America (Dix Artistes de l’Amérique Latine), organized by Carlos Scliar and published by the Maison de L’Amérique Latine. In November, he returned to Rio de Janeiro.

Photomontages The prisioner (1952) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

1950

He was a member of the jury at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts (Salão Nacional de Belas Artes), alongside Antonio Bento, Augusto Rodrigues, Burle Marx, Gastão Worms, Joaquim Tenreiro, Paulo Werneck, Percy Lau, Santa Rosa, and Ubi Bava. In 1951, he visited the 1st São Paulo International Art Biennial, which made a huge impact on him.

Children in Venice (1952) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

1952

Having passed the civil service entrance examination, he started work in the Documentation Service at the then Ministry for Education and Health. He designed covers and did illustrations for magazines, catalogs, and books, including My Neighbor as Myself by Gustavo Corção. He also did his first photomontages.

O duplo (1953)Fundação Athos Bulcão

1953

He stepped up his work on interior architecture, encouraged by the sculptor Maria Martins. At the invitation of the director Martim Gonçalves, he made the costumes for the Gil Vicente play Everybody and Nobody for Maria Clara Machado's theater group, O Tablado.

Painel de azulejos, Hospital da Lagoa, Rio de Janeiro - RJ (1955) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

1955

He created the external tiles for Oscar Niemeyer's project for the Sul América Hospital, now the Lagoa Hospital, in Rio de Janeiro.

Painel de azulejos, Hospital da Lagoa, Rio de Janeiro - RJ (1955) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Sketch for costume of the play Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov (1955) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo Memória O TabladoFundação Athos Bulcão

1955

He made the costumes for O Tablado's production of Anton Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya, which was directed by Geraldo Queiróz.

Costume of the play Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov, O Tablado’s production. (1955) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo Memória O TabladoFundação Athos Bulcão

Capa da Revista Módulo Número 1 (março de 1955) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo particularFundação Athos Bulcão

1955

He designed the covers for the magazines Brasil Arquitetura Contemporânea and Módulo. Módulo was edited by Oscar Niemeyer, and Bulcão continued working for the publication until 1957.

Capa do disco As Mãos de Eurídice (1956) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo particularFundação Athos Bulcão

1956

He designed the Sala Festa album covers for Irineu Garcia, including the monologue of Pedro Bloch's The Hands of Eurydice, read by the actor Rodolpho Mayer, and the audio recordings by the poets Vinicius de Moraes and Paulo Mendes Campos.

Move to Brasilia

1957

He was loaned by Ministry for Education (MEC), at Oscar Niemeyer's request, to work for the Urbanizing Company for the New Capital (Novacap), which was set up by President Juscelino Kubitschek. He began working on the Brasilia projects.

Painel de azulejos, Igrejinha Nossa Senhora de Fátima, Brasília - DF (1957) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

1958

In August, he moved to Brasilia with Oscar Niemeyer and his team. He made the tiles for the Our Lady of Fatima Church and for the Brasilia Palace Hotel. He also illustrated the cover of the book The Empty City by Fernando Sabino.

Pintura mural, Brasília Palace Hotel (1958) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

1959

He painted the mural at the Brasilia Palace Hotel …

Pintura do forro, Capela Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Palácio da Alvorada, Brasília - DF (1959) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

1959

and the ceiling of the Alvorada Palace Chapel.

Capa do livro O Encontro Marcado (1956) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo Biblioteca da UnBFundação Athos Bulcão

1959

In the same year, he illustrated the cover for the novel The Appointment by Fernando Sabino.

Painel em mármore branco e granito preto, Senado Federal (1960) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

1960

The new Brazilian capital, Brasilia, was inaugurated and Bulcão's work can be seen in several public buildings.

Roberto, Athos e João Filgueiras Lima (1998)Fundação Athos Bulcão

1962

 He worked on projects with the architect João Filgueiras Lima, known as Lelé, as for the first time.

Encontro comemorativo dos professores que se demitiram em 1965 da Universidade de Brasília (1965)Fundação Athos Bulcão

1963–65

At Darcy Ribeiro's invitation, he started lecturing at the University of Brasilia's Arts Institute, which was managed by the architect Alcides da Rocha Miranda In 1965, he joined the protest movement that led to the dismissal of more than 200 lecturers at Brasilia University.

Athos Bulcão no Teatro Nacional (1967)Fundação Athos Bulcão

1966

He designed the external relief for the Claudio Santoro National Theater. The relief was made in 1967.

Relevo em concreto pintado de branco, Teatro Nacional Cláudio Santoro, Brasília - DF (1966) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

First international works

Tile panel from Mondadori Residence, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France Tile panel from Mondadori Residence, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France (1972) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

1971

In June, he went to Paris, at Oscar Niemeyer's invitation, and they worked together on projects in France, Italy, and Algeria. He returned to Brazil in December.

Tile panel from Mondadori Publishing House, Milan, Italy Tile panel from Mondadori Publishing House, Milan, Italy (1971) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Tile panel from Mondadori Publishing House, Milan, Italy Tile panel from Mondadori Publishing House, Milan, Italy (1971) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

1973–74

In 1973, he returned to Paris, once again at Oscar Niemeyer's request, and he lived there from March to December. The following year, a catalog of his work integrating art and architecture was published by Éditions Rousseau in Geneva, Switzerland. Jean Petit did the graphic design.

Return to Brazil

Athos orientando funcionários na colocação dos azulejos do hospital da Rede Sarah (1982)Fundação Athos Bulcão

1975

He started working more with the architect João Filgueiras Lima on a large number of projects for the Sarah Kubitschek Hospital, which specialized in motor recovery.

Athos orientando funcionários na colocação dos azulejos do hospital da Rede Sarah (1982)Fundação Athos Bulcão

Trajes para a ópera ‘Amahl e os visitantes da noite’ de Gian Carlo Menotti. (1978)Fundação Athos Bulcão

1978

He designed the costumes and props for the Gian Carlo Menotti opera Ahmal and the Night Visitors, which was coordinated by Asta-Rose Alcaide and had scenery by Giselle Magalhães.

Trajes para a ópera ‘Amahl e os visitantes da noite’ de Gian Carlo Menotti. (1978)Fundação Athos Bulcão

Athos em seu apartamento (1979)Fundação Athos Bulcão

1979

He stepped up his involvement in exhibitions, both collective and individual, in Brazil and abroad.

Untitled (1982) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

1992

The Fundação Athos Bulcão was set up to preserve and promote the visual artist's work. The organization's archive also has a large collection of works donated by the artist.

Marianne Peretti, José Aparecido, Chico Buarque de Holanda, Athos Bulcão, Joaquim Vaz de Mesquita, Oscar Niemeyer e Dante de Oliveira (1984)Fundação Athos Bulcão

1984

Whether signing manifestos, donating works for auctions, or making public statements, he was actively involved in the civil movements that were fighting for the return of democratic freedoms in Brazil.

Ruth Cardoso, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Antônio Carlos Magalhães, Franco Montoro e Athos Bulcão (1999)Fundação Athos Bulcão

1999

On January 20, the University of Brasilia awarded him an honorary doctorate. He was made a Commander of the Order of Rio Branco by the president of Brazil. He also received a Special Merit award from the Brasilia Alvorada Rotary Club.

Relevo em madeira no biblioteca do Ministério da Saúde (2002)Fundação Athos Bulcão

2002

He made a lacquered wooden panel for the Ministry of Health Library and a decorative panel for the lobby of the Libertas Building, both in Brasilia.

Marco Aurélio Costa, Mônica Pinto, Kakay e Athos Bulcão (2007)Fundação Athos Bulcão

2006–07

He was promoted to the rank of Grand Officer of the Order of Rio Branco. In 2007, he attended the unveiling of the panel at the Piantella restaurant. This panel was a replica of the demolished relief at the Congress Club Headquarters.

Pintura mural, Brasília Palace Hotel (1958) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

2007

 
He attended the new unveiling of the tiled panel and the mural—both his work—at the Brasilia Palace Hotel. The originals were destroyed in the 1978 fire that left the building in ruins.

Athos Bulcão na Igrejinha Nossa Senhora de Fátima (1998)Fundação Athos Bulcão

2008

On July 31, 2008, he died aged 90 at the Sarah Kubitschek Hospital in Brasilia. He was being treated for Parkinson's disease and he passed away following a cardio-respiratory arrest.

Painel de azulejos, Igrejinha Nossa Senhora de Fátima, Brasília - DF (1957) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

2008

Athos Bulcão was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit for the second time by the president of Brazil. The Ministry of Culture awarded him the Grand Cross in an in memoriam tribute.

Oficina recriando Athos (2009)Fundação Athos Bulcão

2009

The Athos Bulcão: Composer of Spaces exhibition was held at Brasilia's National Museum (Museu Nacional do Conjunto Cultural da República), the first in memoriam tribute to the artist. His work was included as obligatory content for the early grades of elementary school in the Federal District.

Estudantes da Escola Classe 111 de Samambaia (2009)Fundação Athos Bulcão

2009

His entire work in Brasilia was protected by decree no. 31,067, dated November 23.    

Exposição 100 anos de Athos Bulcão (2018)Fundação Athos Bulcão

2018

To commemorate the centenary of the artist's birth, the 100 Years of Athos Bulcão,  exhibition was held. On display were over 300 pieces, covering not just his tile work but also his entire multifaceted artistic creation.

Credits: Story

www.fundathos.org.br
Selection of excerpts and images: Vitor Borysow

Catalog of the Exhibition ‘100 Years of Athos Bulcão’. Bank of Brazil Cultural Center, 2018-2019.   

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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