Portinari year by year

The painter's chronology from 1903 to 1962

Retrato da família Portinari (1908)Projeto Portinari


Candido Portinari is born on December 30, 1903 on a coffee farm (Fazenda Santa Rosa) near the town of Brodowski in the state of São Paulo, at the time a village with around 700 residents.

He is the second of 12 children born to Italians Baptista Portinari and Dominga Torquato, who both came to Brazil from Italy’s Veneto region at the end of the 19th century, when the coffee culture was in expansion.

Portrait of Dona Dominga and Baptista (1941) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


Baptista and Dominga leave the farm and become trades people in Brodowski, a stop where trains picked up coffee and migrants passed in search of work.

Portrait of Dona Dominga, Candido Portinari, 1941, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portrait of Baptista, Candido Portinari, 1941, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portinari no Grupo Escolar (1915)Projeto Portinari


Portinari goes to school in Brodowski, probably between 1911 and 1916, going no further than the third grade.

Portrait of Carlos Gomes (1914) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


At age 10, Portinari makes Portrait of Carlos Gomes, his first drawing for which there is documentation.

Little Church of Brodowski (1932) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


A group of Italian painters and sculptors visited Brodowski as they travelled around doing the decorative artwork of small town churches. Candido is called to help, together with his childhood friend Modesto Giordano, who says: He (Portinari) stayed there working. Early in the day he was the first to arrive [...] he barely went home to eat [...]. [He was] all he wanted was to learn the art of painting.

Boy with Trap (1933) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


Candido Portinari moves to Rio de Janeiro with the Toledo family, friends of the Portinari family and owners of a boarding house at Avenida Passos, No. 44. Portinari lives there, doing odd jobs. In the capital, he enrolls in the Lyceum of Arts and Trades.

Portinari na ENBA (1923)Projeto Portinari


Portinari enrolls as a non-degree student at the National School of Fine Arts (ENBA), regularly attending figure drawing classes. He finds a tense and contradictory environment with strict rules.

My First Work (1920) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

"My first work"


Portinari na ENBA (1922)Projeto Portinari


Portinari shows his work for the first time and receives an Honorable Mention for a portrait, probably of his friend Ezequiel Fonseca Filho.

Country Dance (1923) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


Portinari submits to the selection panel of the National School of Fine Arts Salon seven portraits and Country Dance, his first work with a Brazilian theme, painted during his summer vacation in Brodowski. The portraits are accepted, but Country Dance is not.

Portinari e sua obra (1926)Projeto Portinari


A pivotal year in Portinari’s artistic development. The painter presents 12 works to the XXXV General Exhibition of Fine Arts and wins the European Travel Prize with Portrait of Olegário Mariano. The press notes the artist’s win.

Portrait of Poet Olegário Mariano, Candido Portinari, 1926, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Salão de 1924, 1924, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portinari has his first solo exhibition, with 25 portraits, at the Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, an initiative of the Brazilian Artists Association, headed by Celso Kelly.

Portinari na Europa (1929)Projeto Portinari

He sails for Europe on the Brazilian ship Bagé. In Paris, he stays temporarily in Montparnasse, a haven for artists of the period. He soon moves to the Hôtel du Dragon and begins his study program. He decides not to attend the Académie Julien, as did most ENBA prize winners.

Portinari na Europa, 1929, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Viagem à Europa, 1929, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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LetterProjeto Portinari

From Paris, he writes to an ENBA colleague:

"…Palaninho is from my land, from Brodowski. …I came here to get to know Palaninho, after having seen so many museums and castles and civilized people… There in Brazil I never used to think about Palaninho… From here I could see my own land more clearly – I could see Brodowski as it is. Here I have no urge to do anything… I’m going to paint Palaninho, I’m going to paint those people with those clothes and that coloring..."

Palaninho (1930) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Still Life (1930) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


He participates in the group exhibition of Brazilian art in Paris Exposition d’Art Brésilien, in the Foyer Brésilien, entering two works: a portrait and a still life.

O casal Portinari na Itália (1930-12)Projeto Portinari

He meets Maria Victoria Martinelli, a nineteen year old Uruguayan living with her family in Paris, who will become his lifelong companion.

Self-Portrait (1930) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


The couple returns to Brazil. Candido Portinari brings six works in his luggage: three still lifes, a nude, a self-portrait and a small portrait of Maria. Once back, he resumes prolific painting in order to support the couple.

O casal Portinari (1932)Projeto Portinari


Portinari presents over 60 works in a solo exhibition at the Palace Hotel promoted by the Brazilian Artists Association. For the first time the artist shows paintings with Brazilian themes, primarily scenes of childhood, the circus and circle games.

Exposição Candido Portinari, no Palace Hotel Exposição Candido Portinari, no Palace Hotel (1931-06-28)Projeto Portinari

No Palace Hotel quando se abriu a exposição do pintor Candido Portinari... No Palace Hotel quando se abriu a exposição do pintor Candido Portinari... (1929-05-25)Projeto Portinari

Exposição Portinari no Palace Hotel, 1929-05, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Exposição Portinari no Palace Hotel (1936-07)Projeto Portinari

The Evicted (1934) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


Portinari paints The Evicted, his first work with a social theme.

Mestizo Man (1934) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

The painting Mestizo is purchased by the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, the first public institution to include a work by Portinari in its collection.

Exposição coletiva no Carnegie Institute (1935-10)Projeto Portinari


At the invitation of Celso Kelly he is hired to teach mural and easel painting at the Art Institute of the Federal District University (UDF) in Rio de Janeiro. His painting Coffee enters the Carnegie Institute exhibition in Pittsburgh and wins Second Honorable Mention.

Coffee (1935) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

“I was impressed with the feet of the coffee plantation workers. Feet that can tell a story. Mixed in with rocks and thorns.”

Candido Portinari

Construction of Highway I (1936) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

The artist makes four large panels for the Monumento Rodoviário [Highway Monument], on the Washington Luís Highway between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Cotton (1938) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


Portinari makes hundreds of studies in charcoal, crayon, tempera, gouache and watercolor for the execution of 12 fresco murals for the Ministry of Education, now the Gustavo Capanema Palace.

Portrait of João Candido (1939) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


On January 20, President Getúlio Vargas decrees that the UDF is to close, consequently ending Portinari’s teaching career. His son João Candido is born.

Exposição Portinari na Feira Mundial (1939-05) by F. S. LincolnProjeto Portinari

Portinari paints the panels Northeastern Rafts, Gaúcha Scene and Night of Saint John for the New York World's Fair Brazilian Pavilion, with architectural design by Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer.

Exposição Portinari no MNBA (1939-11)Projeto Portinari

The largest Portinari exhibition, with 269 works, opens at the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes. Manuel Bandeira and Mário de Andrade write the catalogue preface.

Slum (1933) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


He enters 35 works in the Latin American Exhibition of Fine Arts (Mostra Latino-Americana de Arte) at the Riverside Museum in New York. The exhibition Portinari of Brazil, with approximately 180 works, is held at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and subsequently tours a number of cities in the United States.

Saint Lucy and Saint Peter (1941) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


The University of Chicago publishes the book Portinari, His Life and Art. Portinari paints Nonna’s Little Chapel for his grandmother Pellegrina in a room in the family home in Brodowski. The life-size saints that adorn the walls depict people in the artist’s family. An exhibition opens at the Howard University Gallery of Art in Washington.

Portinari na Biblioteca do Congresso (1941)Projeto Portinari


His murals are inaugurated in the Hispanic Foundation of the Library of Congress in Washington. The panels have a Latin American historical theme.

Mother of Braz Cubas (1943) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


A solo Portinari exhibition of 168 works opens at the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes. The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, by Machado de Assis, is the first book published by the Society of One Hundred Bibliophiles of Brazil and features illustrations by Candido Portinari.

Scarecrow (1940) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


Portinari enters an exhibition commemorating the 15 year anniversary of MoMA – Art in Progress, with the works Scarecrow and Settlers Carrying Coffee.

Dead Child (1944) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Portinari paints the panels in the Migrants Series.

Saint Francis of Assisi (1944) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

The Pampulha architectural complex in Belo Horizonte is completed. Then Mayor Juscelino Kubitschek had commissioned Oscar Niemeyer to design it, including the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi for which Candido Portinari did the decorative artwork, with exterior tiles and a mural painting on the interior.

Portinari na política (1946)Projeto Portinari


Portinari’s growing political concern inspires him to run for a seat in the house of representatives. His platform argues for constituent power founded on popular support for culture, organized labor among the peasantry, a stance against exaggerated prices, inflation, landlordism and fundamentalism.

Exposição Portinari na Galeria Charpentier (1946-10)Projeto Portinari


The Charpentier Gallery in Paris inaugurates a Portinari exhibition with 84 works. The French government inducts Candido Portinari into the Legion of Honor.

Three Children (1945) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


He runs as a Communist Party of Brazil candidate for the Senate but loses by a narrow margin. His first solo exhibition in Argentina opens at the Salón Peuser, in Buenos Aires, with 91 works. The administration of President Eurico Dutra intensifies its persecution of Communists. In November, Portinari goes into voluntary exile in Uruguay. In December, the Portinari family joins the artist.

The First Mass in Brazil (1948) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


In the Teatro Solis, in Montevideo, the panel The First Mass in Brazil is shown; it was painted for the new headquarters of Banco Boavista, in Rio de Janeiro.

Country Wedding (1940) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Portinari returns to Brazil and in December has a retrospective exhibition at São Paulo’s MASP.

Os comunistas têm delegados demais na Conferência Pró-Paz Os comunistas têm delegados demais na Conferência Pró-Paz (1949-03-23)Projeto Portinari


Portinari begins the Tiradentes panel for the Cataguases School in Minas Gerais. He is invited to participate in the Scientific and Cultural Conference for World Peace in New York, but the U.S. Ambassador denies his visa to enter the country. Unable to attend, Portinari sent the following message:

“The struggle for Peace is a decisive and urgent task. It is a campaign to clarify and warn that demands courage and determination. We must organize the fight for Peace and expand our anti-war front more and more, bringing to it all men of good will, without distinction of religion or race. Thus united, all the world’s peoples may take to the final victory, in action and in deed, the great cause of Peace, Culture, Progress and Brotherhood among peoples.”

Portinari is summoned to appear before the Central Police authorities to provide explanations regarding his role with the University of the People.

Tiradentes (1948) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


Portinari visits for the first time Chiampo, his father’s home city in the Veneto region. He receives the Gold Medal of Peace from the II World Congress of Defenders of Peace, in Warsaw, for the panel Tiradentes.

Letter Letter (1951-10-20) by Fernando FamProjeto Portinari


Portinari enters the I Biennial of São Paulo.

The Arrival of Dom João VI to Bahia (1952) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


Portinari makes the panel The Arrival of D. João VI in Bahia, commissioned by Banco da Bahia. The United Nations secretary-general announces that the Brazilian government has offered two panels (War and Peace), to be made by Portinari, to decorate one of the halls of the UN’s new headquarters building.

Letter Letter (1955-12-02) by António BottoProjeto Portinari


He is hospitalized in Rio de Janeiro after suffering intestinal hemorrhaging. The diagnosis indicates problems have arisen from the use of paints containing heavy metals like lead, cadmium and silver. After ten years without a solo exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, Portinari opens an exhibition of 100 works at the Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM).

Portinari com Antonio Bento (1955)Projeto Portinari


A solo exhibition opens at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) with over 100 works, among them two models for the War and Peace panels, a gift from the Brazilian government for the UN headquarters in New York.

"Estou proibido de viver" "Estou proibido de viver" (1954-05-29)Projeto Portinari

Medical orders put a halt to Portinari’s painting for some time. Lead in the paints is causing his illness. – I am forbidden to live, says Portinari.

Portinari o melhor pintor de 1955 Portinari o melhor pintor de 1955 (1956-01-12)Projeto Portinari


An agreement is signed between Portinari and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the artist to make the War and Peace panels, whose studies are already well underway. Portinari has a special room, hors concours, at the III Biennial of São Paulo, entering 12 large sized studies for the War panel. The International Fine Arts Council (IFAC) of New York awards Portinari a Gold Medal for best painter of the year.

O presidente JK na mostra dos painéis da ONU (1956-03) by Armando RozárioProjeto Portinari


Portinari delivers War and Peace. The panels, measuring 14m x 10m each, were made in oil on ship plywood over a period of nine months, with assistance from Enrico Bianco and Rosalina Leão. Before they go to the UN headquarters in Nova York, Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek inaugurates an exhibition of the panels at the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro. For the first and only time Portinari saw War and Peace mounted. At the exhibition opening, President Kubitschek gives Portinari the Gold Medal he received from the International Fine Arts Council in 1955.

Exposição dos painéis "Guerra" e "Paz" (1956-03)Projeto Portinari

"If such paintings were not permanently engraved on your inner canvas, it is because you did not deserve to see them. In the language of a work of art, which is a perfect joy even when it exposes us to mourning and deathly solitude, Portinari tell us: Look. Truly see. Penetrate the depths of these images, and choose."

Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Brazilian poet.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza on Wooden Horse (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Portinari makes the D. Quixote Series, comprised of 22 colored pencil drawings and commissioned by José Olympio publishing house to illustrate the poems by Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

Painéis de Portinari na ONU (1957-09-06)Projeto Portinari


Portinari has a solo exhibition at the Maison de la Pensée Française, in Paris, sponsored by the Brazilian Embassy. The exhibition then goes to Munich and Cologne, in Germany. The War and Peace panels are given to the UN in an official ceremony. Portinari is not invited to attend the ceremony due to his involvement with the Communist Party and is represented by Ambassador Cyro de Freitas-Valle. Launching his literary pursuits, Portinari begins to write Retalhos de minha vida de infância [Fragments from my Childhood].

Letter Letter (1958-02-12) by Eugenio LuraghiProjeto Portinari


Portinari’s first solo exhibition in his parents’ home country opens, at the Galleria del Libraio in Bologna, Italy. The artist is summoned to appear before the National Security Council, along with Oscar Niemeyer, Arnaldo Estrela, Dalcídio Jurandir and others for their work with the School of the People.

Boy with Sheep (1959) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari


The travelling exhibition Brazilian Artists in Europe begins, organized by the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art. He does the illustrations for the book Plantation Boy, by José Lins do Rego, published by the Society of One Hundred Bibliophiles of Brazil. The V Biennial of São Paulo has a retrospective of Portinari’s work with 127 pieces.

Portinari com sua neta (1960) by Flávio DammProjeto Portinari


Denise is born, Candido Portinari’s granddaughter. On this day Portinari writes: – My granddaughter will free me from loneliness. The artist will go on to depict his granddaughter in poetry and painting. In Italy the book is published called Brasil, dipinti di Portinari (Brazil, Painting by Portinari).

Denise with Cat (1960) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Denise in Pink with Dog (1960) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Denise with White Sheep (1961-05-06) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Denise with Dog (1961) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Portinari avô, Flávio Damm, 1961, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portinari avô, Garrido, 1961, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Portinari na Galeria Bonino (1960-05-19) by Flávio DammProjeto Portinari


On a trip to France, the French government prevents him from entering the country. Negotiations finally yield a 60 day visa with the condition that he not make any political statements. He returns to Brazil with waning health. He has the last solo exhibition of his life, at the Bonino Gallery in Rio de Janeiro. Portinari makes three tile panels: Frevo and Fish, for the Pampulha Yacht Club, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, and Doves, for a building in Paris.

Portinari com sua neta, Maria Portinari, 1962-01, From the collection of: Projeto Portinari
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Morte de Portinari (1962-02-08)Projeto Portinari


Portinari dies on February 6, poisoned by the heavy metals in his paints. The memorial service is held at the Ministry of Education headquarters building, today’s Gustavo Capanema Palace. In attendance were former Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek, Hermes Lima, representing President João Goulart, clandestine Communist leaders Luis Carlos Prestes and Carlos Marighela, and the anticommunist leader and governor of Guanabara State Carlos Lacerda. The federal government issues a death notice and three days of mourning are declared in Guanabara State.

Morte de Portinari (1962-02-08)Projeto Portinari

Morte de Portinari (1962-02-08)Projeto Portinari

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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