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.