War (1952-1956)

Oil panel/compensated wood, 1400 x 1058 cm.

By Projeto Portinari

War (1952) by Candido PortinariProjeto Portinari

"In the representation of war, since he had relative freedom to create, Portinari chose the timeless subject of the Four Knights of the Apocalypse. It seemed to him a better solution than painting war in a realist manner and representing the 20th century combats with their arsenal of contemporary weapon. It was all set aside in favor of a symbolic view, unlike what we seen in Mexican artists’ murals or even in Picasso’s Massacre in Korea."

Antonio Bento

"The war would be represented through the people’s suffering, not soldiers in combat. The horses don’t even have the colors of the biblical text, in which the first one is whit; the second one, red (the color of fire); the third one, black; and the fourth, yellow or bay. This difference was imposed by the painting’s tonal needs, in which blues dominate and seem to even sing, sustained by the warm orange tones."

Antonio Bento

"The work’s proportions allowed for a more solid entwinement of colors, masses, and shapes, distributed in groups of martyr figures, grouped as a counterpoint structure. The expressive role of deep, intense blues would be one of the mural’s novelties. When I observed this as it was being made, Portinari said: “I have always loved blues, which didn’t use to be employed very often by painters back in the day, since they were so rare.”

Antonio Bento

"The tone chosen helped the horrors of war stand out. The sufferings and tribulations that armed fight always bring to people are stamped in the body and face of men, women, and children throughout the mural’s extension. The crying, the disgrace, and the horror coming from the greatest of human conflicts are present in numerous figures’ postures and gestures. They are similar to other figures in his compositions referring to biblical subjects or the misadventures of the Northeastern drought calamity.”

Antonio Bento

“[Portinari] Doesn’t identify a single war, as if stating that, in essence, they are all the same in bringing horror and abnormality. No identifiable weapon, in Portinari; the apocalyptic ride that cuts the scene in every direction with its parade of conquest, war, hunger, and death does not have the biblical colors of fire and blood, nor does it have black, white or yellow. Blue dominates. A tragic, painful symphony in all shades of blue. The dark, somber tones, rich in varied, deep violet nuances, draw the scenes over a background of light blue with green reflexes, tending to light citrines."

Israel Pedrosa

"Contrasting with this blue universe and giving it chromatic richness in tone contrast, a horse spotted in carmine red, the carnation of faces, arms, and feet coming out of dark clothing appear in bright oranges that go from dark violet shades to the almost red and roses of intense luminous crepitation. In this feeling of violent contrast, of somber fury, the unstoppable hoofbeats free the beasts that terrorize the world.”

Israel Pedrosa

“On these geometric plains that interconnect the groups of secondary figures emerges a luminosity, a chiaroscuro is hinted at, scenes happen in the structures’ frame."

Clarival do Prado Valladares

"Those who study Portinari’s work, at every moment see other paintings, from before and after these panels. In War, six times there is a mother figure with a dead child on her lap, in that imaginary Pietà, and among the almost seventy secondary figures, there are the faces of displaced Northeasterners."

Clarival do Prado Valladares

"'Boy Crying', from 1957-1958, is already embodied in the tragic loneliness of War, in the lack of modesty from that boy covering his tears with his gown."

Clarival do Prado Valladares

"The hyenas group, a metaphor through which Portinari sees and portrays the men who cause the war, is of such reality—an excessive realism—that the flesh-eating, nocturne, coward beasts appear ready for a feast, in the clothing and pattern given to them by nature."

Clarival do Prado Valladares

Credits: Story

Direção Geral: João Candido Portinari
Curadoria e Pesquisa: Maria Duarte
Copyright Projeto Portinari

Antonio Bento
Excerpts originally published in Portinari. Rio de Janeiro: Léo Christiano, 1980.

Israel Pedrosa
Excerpt from the article Gênese da história dos painéis históricos [Genesis of the history of historical panels], originally in: PORTINARI, João Candido (Org.). Guerra e paz – Portinari. Rio de Janeiro: Projeto Portinari, 2007.

Clarival do Prado Valladares
Excerpt originally publshed in Análise iconográfica da pintura monumental de Portinari nos Estados Unidos. Catallogue preface. Rio de Janeiro: Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, 1975.

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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