Don Quijote

Commissioned by the editor José Olympio, Portinari created a series of illustrations about the adventures of the hero

Don Quixote (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

In 1953, editor José Olympio commissioned Portinari to illustrate Cervantes’s Dom Quixote. Dedicated to the execution of the War and Peace panels at the UN Headquartes, in New York, Portinari only did the drawings in 1956, when fighting poisoning by paints, which would end his life six years later.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza Heading Out on Their Adventures (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

"To illustrate Dom Quixote again? Why, if, among so many others, Gustavo Doré and Daumier already did it, and their images stay with us as Quixote and Sancho themselves, alive at any time? But Portinari did not surrender to the argument and accepted José Olympio’s commission/challenge. …"

Carlod Drummond de Andrade

Don Quixote Charging the Windmill (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

"It was a difficult time when he, a painter, could not paint. The lead salts in the paints had slowly poisoned him, and the doctor recommended he stop. Portinari, who did nothing else besides painting, took refuge in drawing."

Carlos Drummond de Andrade

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

“The idea of interpreting Cervantes with colored pencils, like a boy having fun with doodles, fascinated him. He dove in the book’s reading and created the first scenes. Passionate about the work, he thought he needed to go to Spain to better feel the moral temperature of the story. The trip didn’t happen, and Portinari left the work unfinished: 21 drawings incorporated, after his death, to the Chácara do Céu Museum. …”

Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Don Quixote Attacking a Flock of Sheep (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Sancho Panza Swears Allegiance to Don Quixote (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

"In 1956, Cândido Portinari knighted the colored pencil, investing it with extraordinary artistic power. He couldn’t have found a better subject to make the new anointed weapons famous than the adventures of The Knight of the Sad Countenance."

Antonio Callado

Don Quixote Charging the Cows (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Sancho Panza Equipping Don Quixote (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Don Quixote Lying Down and Villagers Fighting (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Don Quixote Squatting with Hallucinations (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

“They were the thin pencil and the thin Quixote creating wonders one would say were far superior to their frail strength. Cervantes and his Don Quixote, who change with each culture, in this Brazilian book are put in a campina plain and a forest, with rams, mills, and castles, by a poet holding his flute and a painter with his pencil pointed.”

Antonio Callado

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza Prostrate Before Women and Horse (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

Years later, Drummond commented on an article about the book: “Such precious creations, the first notable Brazilian expression of part of a universal work, should not be confined to the museum room.”

Don Quixote, Knight Errant (1956) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

The book for which José Olympio commissioned the illustrations was published in 1972, when the Raymundo Ottony de Castro Maya Foundation, now the Castro Maya Museums, decided to carry the idea forth. Poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, celebrating his 70th birthday then, was invited to write 21 poetic commentaries to go with Portinari’s drawings.

Capa do livro D. Quixote: Cervantes, Portinari e Drummond (1956) by Carlos Drummond de AndradeProjeto 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
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