Athos Bulcão's early works

discover the artist's career prior to his departure for the then new federal capital in the 1960s

By Fundação Athos Bulcão

Paintings and drawings

Paintings Flower vase (1941) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Time for experimentation

If the 1940s was a decade of artistic training for the painter, the 1950s was a decade of experimenting with different art forms and mediums, including photomontages, magazine covers, theatrical scenery and costumes, and the start of his tile work.

Flower vase (1941) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

First exhibition

Encouraged by Oscar Niemeyer, Athos Bulcão held his first individual exhibition at the Brazilian Architects Institute in 1944, showing around 30 pieces, including drawings and watercolors. 

Drawings Behind the scenes (1943) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Light & Shade

These are still life and paintings of theatrical stages and backstage scenes in dim lighting, an indication of Athos' heavy involvement in theater at that time.

[Sabara] (1947) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Getting more involved in art

It so happened that I was studying medicine but I had to work, I had to have a job, as well. At that job, which was with the Ministry for Labor, I had two colleagues who were involved with the theater. That's how I got to see [theatrical] artists up close for the first time."

Drawings Untitled (1946) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Opening his eyes

"It was through these two leading comedy actors, through this environment, that I got to see everything close up.”


Athos Bulcão

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

Vermelhinho

Having left his medicine studies to take up painting full time, Athos moved in with other artists, becoming friends with Carlos Scliar, Enrico Bianco, and Roberto Burle Marx. He was a regular at Vermelhinho, the famous bar on Araújo Porto Alegre Street in downtown Rio de Janeiro, where he rubbed shoulders with other artists and the city's intellectual circles.

Sem título (1948) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Carnivals

Carnivals were a recurring theme in Athos Bulcão's drawings and paintings throughout his career as an artist. Images influenced by the artist's childhood memories of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival festivities.

Illustrations, his work for the A Manhã newspaper

Ilustração para soneto de Diogo Bernardes. (1946-08-18) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo Biblioteca NacionalFundação Athos Bulcão

Illustrating stories

Like many other artists, Athos also had to find other ways to earn a living. In 1946, he started illustrating articles, poems, and stories for the A Manhã newspaper's Literature and Arts supplement. He would work at the newspaper until 1951.

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

Ilustração para o ensaio "A concepção do Estado no Segundo Fausto", de Cristiano Martins (1950-01-08) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo Biblioteca NacionalFundação Athos Bulcão

Ilustração para o conto Magia das Pedra Preciosas de Paul Claudel (1947-03-16) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo Biblioteca NacionalFundação Athos Bulcão

Photomontages

The abyss (1949) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Photomontages

I did a huge series of photomontages from 1952 to 1955 because I later started to do photomontages applied to architecture. I was doing huge montages...

Searching for his identity

That was a time when I was having an identity crisis. I'd come back from Europe, where I'd had a scholarship, and I saw that I couldn't live from my painting. I was doing interior design but I didn't like that very much. [...]

Sport and Comfort (1952) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Something different

What I wanted was to do something that wasn't photography, or theater, or cinema."

O pesadelo da Sr.ª Vaderbitt (1953) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Art in motion

I started cutting out figures and putting them next to one another. It's an exercise in framing. It's something that, in my head, is perhaps linked to cinema, to movement. I'd make up little films about them.

Athos Bulcão

Untitled (1954) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Drawings

The dragon (1954) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

An attentive Athos

Unlike some of his peers who moved towards sociopolitical themes in the 1940s and 1950s (such as Carlos Scliar and Cândido Portinari, for example), Athos followed other influences, …

Untitled (1955) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Experimentation

… allowing himself to freely experiment with different composition possibilities in his work.

Costumes

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

Athos and the theater

While the stage had featured merely as a motif in his drawings in the 1940s, from 1952 onwards, Athos started producing theatrical scenery and costumes on a more regular basis …

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

His partnership with Lúcio Cardoso

Such as for Lúcio Cardoso theatrical adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's story The Tell-Tale Heart.

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

Other plays

He produced the scenery and the costumes for the plays Everybody and Nobody in 1953 and Uncle Vanya in 1955, both for the O Tablado theater group.

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

Magazine, book, and album covers

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

Revista Módulo

In 1955, Athos Bulcão began working with the magazine Módulo, which had Oscar Niemeyer as one of its directors. The magazine dealt with architecture and visual arts.

Capa da Revista Módulo Número 4 (março de 1956) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo particularFundação Athos Bulcão

The first volumes

Athos' work featured on the covers for the magazine's first eight volumes, with the artist basing his work on the content of the articles.

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

Diving into the world of music

Broadening out even further into graphic arts, Athos also started designing album covers for Irineu Garcia's Selo Festa label in 1955, […]

Capa do disco "Poesias" (1955) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Partnerships

… including Pedro Bloch's The Hands of Euridice, read by the actor Rodolpho Mayer, and audio recordings by the poets Vinicius de Moraes and Paulo Mendes Campos.

Contracapa do disco "Poesias" (1956) by Athos BulcãoFundação Athos Bulcão

Capa do disco Recital de Margarida Lopes de Almeida (1957) by Athos Bulcão/ Acervo particularFundação Athos Bulcão

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

Books

Authors whose book covers were designed by Athos Bulcão include Fernando Sabino (The Appointment and The Empty City) and Gustavo Corção (The Discovery of the Other).

Early panels

Athos Bulcão first met Oscar Niemeyer in 1943 when the architect commissioned him to design the external tiles for Belo Horizonte's Municipal Theater. The project remained unfinished and the panel was never made.

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

Working with Niemeyer

Their partnership was revived in 1955, when Athos made his first tile panel for what is now the Hospital da Lagoa in Rio de Janeiro.

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

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

First work for Brasilia

Even before he moved to Brasilia, Athos created the tile panel for the Our Lady of Fatima Church, which was designed by Oscar Niemeyer and opened in 1958. It was Athos Bulcão's first work for the federal capital and it marks a milestone in his work with ceramic tiles.

Credits: Story

Fundação Athos Bulcão
Selection of excerpts and images: Vitor Borysow

BULCÃO, Athos. Silence dweller in Brasilia (Habitante do silêncio em Brasília). Interview given to Carmen Moretzsohn for the Jornal de Brasília newspaper (1998). In: CABRAL, Valéria Maria Lopes (Org.). Athos Bulcão: Brasília: Fundação Athos Bulcão, 2009. 

ADAM, Luciana Fonseca de Melo. Athos Bulcão: Transformation and Continuity in the 1940s and 1950s. (Athos Bulcão: Transformações e Permanências nas décadas de 1940 e 1950.) Art & Sensorium, Revista Interdisciplinar Internacional de Artes Visuais, Curitiba, v.6, n.1, p. 46-65, Jan.- June. 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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