Emigrant Faces

Zoom into Lasar Segall's intimate group-portrait

By Google Arts & Culture

Emigrantes III (1936) by Lasar SegallPinacoteca de São Paulo

Emigrantes III, executed by Lasar Segall in 1936, is a fine example of a phase in the artist’s work that began in the early 1930s characterized by a formal solidity, most likely from his experiments with sculpture in the 1930s, and a density of matter accentuated by the addition of sand and sawdust to paints. This period deals with a social theme strongly marked by the experience of World War II, as well as its antecedents and consequences. 

This composition is organized by the rhythm imposed by the straight and diagonal lines formed by the heads of the five represented figures. 

The hands, like the veil that covers the head of the central female figure, act as compositional elements of the painting, creating formal bridges between the characters. 

The two masculine figures of the left, in particular the most extreme-left figure, resemble Segall’s own features…

...while the central figure is recognizable as Lucy Citti Ferreira, painter, model and Segall’s collaborator for many years. 

The two figures on the right - the boy who faces us and the old man with closed eyes - are not identifiable. However, an old gentleman with a long white beard is a recurring figure in Segall's work which carries a deep symbolic charge.

What the artist said about his own painting, Navio de Emigrantes, could easily also apply to this work: "I stripped it of all objective realism to make it a symbol." It is not a question here of objective portraits of emigrants, but of symbols of the uncertain condition of the one who emigrated or was exiled; the one that no longer inhabits his native land, no longer belongs. This is a lived concern of Segall’s, having spent his life between his native Lithuania, Brazil, Russia and Germany during times of war and political turbulence.

The experimental regression of certain works can be related to the period in which Segall lived in Paris between 1928 and 1932. There he no doubt came into contact with the works of Picasso's neoclassical phase, which clearly influenced his own style.

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.
Google apps