Critic Reviews

Reviews and testimonies about Candido Portinari's artworks and legacy

Portinari jovem (1921)Projeto Portinari

"... His journey begins in a hamlet called Brodowski, São Paulo, Brazil, and ends in Rio on a sunny morning. Source and estuary. But in between this two points, these two parentheses, theses two dates (1903-1962, Here Lies), there is room for a whole world of a thousand band, Europes, Americas, Amozonias. A world abouding with history: coffee and slaves, conquerors and gems, precious wood, Tiradentes, the hunger and the book. And this will be the real key, the record, that is, of one who covered with the sapphire of his sight an immense geography of jungles, mulattoes, rivers like arteries: Brazil."

José Cardoso Pires, Portuguese Writer

Portinari e seus pincéis (1960) by David VestalProjeto Portinari

“If one day someone came and said: ‘Portinari, there is no more painting,’ the young man from Brodowski would respond: ‘Then we shall all die.’”

José Lins do Rego, Brazilian writer

Portinari em seu ateliê (1944)Projeto Portinari

"As a boy, Candido Portinari left my land with paper and colors in hand for the grand adventure of painting a country.

No, not paint it: create it out of an unseen reality, show it throughout the world, contorted, breathless, oppressed, fledgling, as if to say, “This is how we are….”

One day we will be just tatters of the tale of our existence. And avid, wise hands from the future will reconstruct what we were, will be surprised by us. And out of the dust that we will be, they will extract what those eyes drank in, what passed through those fingers. And they will know that we lived in this place, because he invented our eternity."

Guilherme Figueiredo, Writer

Portinari e sua obra (1949)Projeto Portinari

"Candido Portinari has borne us up with his work. He was one of the great men of our time, since from his hands were born the hue and the poetry, the drama and the hope of our people. With his brush, he heached deeply into our reality. The Brazilian land and people – peasants, migrants, children, saints and clowns, the animals and the landscape – with them he laboured and constructed his imperishable work..."

Jorge Amado, Brazilian Writer

Portinari e sua obra (1943) by Jean ManzonProjeto Portinari

"In the first time we meet this men, short in stature and modest in appearance, and look into his sky-blue eyes, and listen to him speak at lenght, simply as if a child, to the children that he loved more than anything, it is hard to believe that we're standing before the most troubling and tragic painter of our time. (...)

In a time of confusion, flightiness and anemia, the example of Candido Portinari’s powerful art, so full of import, content and solid technique, comes to us as a wholesome, life-giving wind, as proof that the great Latin vein has not bled dry, but, enriched by new motifs, lives on, thanks to the merit of a son of immigrants who still believes that painting is a serious, difficult occupation, which is useful to man."

Giuseppe E. Luraghi, Italian Poet, Writer and Art Critic

Portinari (1958)Projeto Portinari

“This immense artist, who no doubt had a divine spark, has stayed forever as a child.”

Dom Helder Câmara, emeritus Brazilian archbishop

Portinari e sua obra (1944) by Kazys VosyliusProjeto Portinari

"Portinari is one of the greatest painters of our time. His force is enormous. In that morning when I saw his paintings I had such an emotional shock that I left the Galerie Charpentier overcome by a real nervous fatigue. All afternoon I was unable to work. I was truly exhausted..."

René Huyghe, historian and art critic,
French art historian and Chief Curator of the Louvre Museum

Portinari e sua obra (1959)Projeto Portinari

"Portinari is a deeply moved man. Moved by the men and women of Brazil, who work and suffer."

Otto Maria Carpeaux, Writer

Portinari e sua obra (1947)Projeto Portinari

"Here is an artist who makes paintings, not just to paint, but to set free a lyrical and dramatic force trapped within him. His work is not “atelier” speculation, the stuff of never-ending discussions about aesthetics on the part of amateurs and critics.

Like the masters of old, Portinari, on scaffolding, paints for others, in frescoes or temperings, large lay or religious ensembles of his land or the United States.

These compositions are not "decorative"; in them live beings that are related to one another not by gratuitous gestures that generate arabesques and harmonies, but by human drama. Alone, on the other side of the world, this Brazilian painter spontaneously achieved a social representation whose restlessness begins to grab our attention. In him, all the powers of expression face off as if his heart were to end the virginity of a world. Along with canvasses in motley colours, impregnated with tenderness, there are others of pungent expressionism, whose unmeasured violence will perhaps shock in this Parisian environment accustomed to seeing respect for, even with audacity, the canons that were established by over 30 years of artistic debate about what constitutes "the right tone".

Violence that is born of of the very earth that engendered it, like a gust of wind, this exuberant land of the tropics, able to assimilate, in a single generation, men who arrive from all corners of the world, and thus has been able to take the most disparate native and imported compoments and mold them into a remarkable national unit: Brazil."

Germain Bazin, Historian and Art Critic and Director of the Louvre Museum

Portinari e seus pincéis (1943) by Jean ManzonProjeto Portinari

“You are the joy and the honor of our time and our generation. I don’t know if I could tell you this in person, but I am filled with courage in this letter to express a conviction shared by all your colleagues, who are lifted and represented by your work. Yes, my dear Candinho, it was from you that we got our most universal expression, and not only through resonance, but through the very nature of your creative genius, which, even if it had been ignored or denied, would save our future.”

Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Brazilian poet

Portinari preparando as tintas (1943) by Jean ManzonProjeto Portinari

"The present exhibition of his works in Paris (1946) shows the diversity, the freedom and the power of his genius. Portinari is surely the greatest painter in Latin America and one of the greatest contemporary painters."

Jean Cassou, Director of the Museum of Modern Art of Paris

Portinari e as maquetes para os painéis da ONU (1955-11) by Antônio RudgeProjeto Portinari

"Portinari emerges for us as one of the rare artists who achieved the difficult syntesis between the most modern forms of aesthetic expression and the most intense forms of human anguish. Thus, in the art, his country of origin is explicitly represented, but he also goes uniquely beyond it to take his place among those artists who messages offer something of interest internationally."

Raymond Cogniat, French Art Critic

Portinari (1956) by Francesco Florian SteinerProjeto Portinari

"...Now, in 1958, this men is in Mexico, in the Museo Nacional de Artes Plásticas (National Museum of Visual Art), in a special room in his honour offered by a country of painters. What can be seen there is a fine selection, thoroughly informative. It is enough to give the viewer an in-depth understanding. From tenderness to fury, all of Portinari is there: his beasts, his funerals, his pranks, his decorative and frankly human motifs... No one can miss this opportunity to see his work, abundantly and magnificently presented, in the place of honor it deservedly occupies in the heart of Mexico today, surrounded by Mexican muralists, who, like him, have recreated in art the human value and have introduced a neo-American criterion into the general concept of art..."

Enrique Fernandez G., Mexican Art Critic

Portinari e seus pincéis (1943) by Jean ManzonProjeto Portinari

"With his Migrants, his Children from Brodowski, his paintings of laborers, Portinari signaled the abyss that still exists in Brazilian life, between the brutally grandiose country that comes to mind when we say - as if it were magic - “Brazil,” and the smallness of the Brazil inhabited by people imitating Europe and the United States.

His painting of those times is a protest against the distance between us and that called Brazilian reality. It is a voice against the fact that we are still superimposed on the landscape rather than victoriously fixed in it, like the feet of the black people, the mixed race people, the tapuias, the cafusos,the curibocas and the immigrants."

Antonio Callado, Brazilian Writer

Portinari e seus pincéis (1947) by Annemarie HeinrichProjeto Portinari

“In the face of these laments, these sea-horses that speak to the deepest part of my Brazilian soul, I am in a state of absolute critical inhibition. All I can do is admire …”

Manuel Bandeira, writer

Portinari pintando os painéis para a ONU (1955) by Renata FrankProjeto Portinari

"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."

Rachel de Queiroz, Brazilian Writer

Portinari pintando (1952)Projeto Portinari

"It was said to be materialistic, but the saints, of course, did not believe. Who painted that wonderful Pampulha, who had the gift of transmitting the mystic in a San Francisco, who expressed, as only Candinho did, the torture and the vocation of sanctity, in his figures, much prayed through his brushes."

Dinah Silveira de Queiroz

Portinari pintando (1945)Projeto Portinari

"It is a terribly human and dramatically social solution to contemporary aesthetics. One has the impression that in him the tradition is saved, the tradition of the great fresco cycles of the quattrocento, the tradition of Michelangelo, the Romantic tradition, also the Roman tradition without which the Renaissance would have been no more than a jeu d'esprit, but by modern means, by those used casually by Picasso, those that Surrrealism has invented. Truly, our contemporary school of the West, confronted with O enterro na rede (Burial with a hammock) Menino Morto (Dead Boy) or Lavadeiras (Washer-women), seems rather to be a laboratory. With Portinari, it comes into life."

Michel Florisoone, French Art Historian and Chief Curator of the Louvre Museum

Portinari pintando o painel da ONU (1955)Projeto Portinari

"The last time I saw Portinari, his eyes were teary. If I’m not mistaken, it was in the Castelo district of Rio, where I was catching a bus or trolley, and he was there with his Maria. We only spoke for a minute. He was thin; he hugged me tightly and said, Imagine. I can’t paint anymore; the doctor has prohibited it. This was in the afternoon, when the light hits everything at an angle, and Portinari’s blue eyes, brim- ming with unfalling tears, seemed to speak of his immortal work. Maria didn’t leave us much time to talk; he was not to be upset. I wanted to run after him and say, You have alrea- dy given us so much. You have already given us the greatest work a painter can give his people; we already have such timeless treasures; you can rest without worrying that you are no longer painting. They were already far off, and the words died in my thoughts.

Only after Portinari died did I visit the UN and see, at the awe-inspiring apogee of his art, the War and Peace panels. Each figure appeared faceted - a gem or star lit from within -, and I wanted to tell all those people passing through the hall, men and women from all corners of the globe: Just look at our glory. That panel is by our greatest painter. I was born in Brazil like him, Portinari."

Dinah Silveira de Queiroz
Brazilian Writer

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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