José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior (Itu, May 8, 1850 – Piracicaba, November 13, 1899) was a Brazilian painter and draftsman of the second half of the 19th century. He is often acclaimed by biography as a forerunner of the approach of regionalist themes, introducing subjects hitherto unpublished in Brazilian academic production: the broad emphasis given to simple and anonymous characters and the reliability with which he portrayed the country culture, suppressing the monumentality in vogue in artistic teaching In favor of a naturalism.
It was certainly the painter who best assimilated the legacy of Realism by Gustave Courbet and Jean-François Millet, articulating them to the compromise of the ideology of the Paris salons and establishing a bridge between the intimate verismo and the formal rigidity of the academicism, characteristic that the Became quite famous even in life. In a similar way, his biography is still object of study, being of special interest the stories and legends related to the circumstances that led to his murder: Almeida Júnior died stabbed, victim of a crime of passion.
The Day of the Brazilian Plastic Artist is celebrated on May 8, the painter’s birth date.
Almeida Júnior grew up in her hometown, Itu, as an early artist. His first incentive was Father Miguel Correa Pacheco, when the painter was still working as a bellman in the Mother Church of Our Lady of Candelaria, for which he produced some sacred themes. A collection of funds organized by the priest provided the conditions so that the young artist, then 19 years old, could embark for Rio de Janeiro in order to complete his study.
In 1869, Almeida Júnior was enrolled in the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. He was student of Jules Le Chevrel, Victor Meirelles and, possibly, Pedro Américo. Several chronicles report that their simpleton manner and matuto language caused astonishment to the members of the Academy.
After completing the course, Almeida Júnior chose not to compete for the prize for travel to Europe. He returned to Itu and opened a studio in that city, starting to work as a portraitist and drawing teacher.
In 1876, during a trip to the interior of São Paulo, Emperor D. Pedro II, impressed by his work, personally offered Almeida Júnior the cost of a trip to Europe to improve his studies. The following year a decree of March 23 of the Stewardship of the Imperial House opened a credit of 300 francs a month for the painter to study in Rome or Paris.
On November 4, 1876, Almeida Júnior embarked on the Panama vessel for France, establishing residence in the Parisian district of Montmartre. The following month, he enrolled in the École National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. In this institution, he was a student of Alexandre Cabanel and Lequien Fils, becoming very famous in anatomical design and ornamentation.
Almeida Júnior participated in four editions of the Salon de Paris between 1879 and 1882. From this period some of his greatest masterpieces date, such as The Brazilian Tipper and Remorse of Judas (Salon of 1880), The Flight to Egypt Of 1881) and The Rest of the Model (Salon of 1882). Other emblematic works of the painter’s French period are Paris Surroundings and Louvre Surroundings, as well as possibly a set of sixteen canvases depicting the Montmartre neighborhood, whose location is currently unknown.
Almeida Júnior remained in Paris until 1882. That year he made a brief trip to Italy, where he had contact with the brothers Rodolfo and Henrique Bernardelli.
Back in Brazil in 1882, Almeida Júnior holds his first solo show at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, exhibiting his Parisian production. The following year, he opened his atelier on Rua da Glória, in São Paulo, through which he will contribute to the formation of new generations of painters, among them, Pedro Alexandrino. In São Paulo, Almeida Júnior promoted exclusive press releases and potential buyers. He portrayed portraits of coffee barons, professors of the São Paulo Law School, and supporters of the republican movement, as well as landscapes and genre paintings. His performance as an accomplished artist in São Paulo contributes decisively to the artistic maturation of the city of São Paulo.
In 1884, he again exhibited his paintings from the Paris period at the 26th General Exhibition of Fine Arts of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, which was the last and certainly the most important exhibition held in the imperial period.
In 1884, the painter receives the title of Knight of the Order of the Rose, granted by the imperial government. The following year, he refuses the invitation of Victor Meirelles to occupy his place of professor of historical painting of the Academy, remaining in São Paulo. Between 1887 and 1896, he made three other trips to Europe, the last of which was accompanied by his disciple, Pedro Alexandrino, then awarded a scholarship from the São Paulo government.
In his last period, Almeida Júnior will progressively replace the biblical and historical themes with the works of regionalist themes, precisely those that would in the future garner his position as a forerunner of Realism in the history of Brazilian art. In paintings such as Caipira Picando Fumo (1893), Amolação Interrompida (1894) and O Violeiro (1899), the artist reveals his desire to get closer to the daily life of the man from the interior, distancing himself from the generalist formulas of academic painting, More and more of the naturalistic pictorial approach. In spite of its new stylistic orientation, its prestige remains uncontested in the Academy, that exposes works of its regionalist phase (Reading and Picnic in Rio das Pedras, 1892) and grants to him the gold medal for the Parade of the Monção (1894), exposed in the Hall of 1898.
Almeida Júnior died early, at age 49, on November 13, 1899. He was stabbed in front of the Central Hotel of Piracicaba (now demolished), by Jose de Almeida Sampaio, his cousin and husband of Maria Laura do Amaral Gurgel, with Who the painter kept a secret relationship for several years.
Almeida Júnior is considered an important “painter of the national” by a considerable part of Brazilian criticism, for portraying in many of his works the paipista country. Also the way he treats his subjects, distancing himself from the romantic allegories or the historical nationalist upholence of the painters of the Academy, approaching the common human, leads some critics to draw a resemblance of his work with that of the French painter Gustave Courbet, An artist whose work Almeida Júnior would have seen on his travels to Europe. It is also noteworthy that at the same time that Almeida Júnior was in France, the Impressionist movement was in full activity, however, did not cause any enthusiasm in the Brazilian painter, who did not adopt any element of it.
The paleening of the palette and the adoption of the Brazilian light did not, however, abandon academic rigor with drawing and anatomy.
Some paintings by Almeida Junior are: Caipira chopping smoke, The departure of the monsoon, Caipiras negaceando, The rest of the model; Reading, Painting (Allegory) and The Escape to Egypt.
The theme The rest of the model was painted four times in different sizes. Countryman stinging smoke, two. The monsoon was painted twice, the first as a study, present at the Pinacoteca of the State of São Paulo, and the other, the definitive version, present at the Museu Paulista for the commitment of the director Afonso de Taunay who understood that it was essential to have that work in the Institution For showing the departure of the bandeirantes that would extend the frontier of Brazil beyond the limits of the Tordesilhas.