Tarsila de Aguiar do Amaral, (September 1, 1886 – January 17, 1973), internationally known as Tarsila do Amaral or simply Tarsila, is considered one of the leading Latin American modernist artists, described as “the Brazilian painter who best achieved Brazilian aspirations for nationalistic expression in a modern style.” She was a member of the “Grupo dos Cinco” (Group of Five), which was a group of five Brazilian artists who are considered the biggest influence in the modern art movement in Brazil. The other members of the “Grupo dos Cinco” are Anita Malfatti, Menotti Del Picchia, Mário de Andrade, and Oswald de Andrade. Tarsila was also instrumental in the formation of the Antropofagia Movement (1928-1929); she was in fact the one who inspired Oswald de Andrade’s famous “Cannibal Manifesto”.
Born on September 1, 1886, in Capivari, in the interior of São Paulo, she was the daughter of José Estanislau do Amaral Filho and Lídia Dias de Aguiar, and granddaughter of José Estanislau do Amaral, nicknamed “the millionaire” by virtue of immense fortune accumulated in farms of the interior of São Paulo.
His father inherited the fortune and several farms, where Tarsila and his seven brothers passed the childhood. As a child, she made use of imported French products and was educated according to the taste of time. His first teacher, the Belgian Mlle. Marie van Varemberg d’Egmont, taught her to read, write, embroider and speak French. Her mother would spend hours at the piano and tell stories of the novels she read to the children. His father recited verses in French, drawn from the numerous volumes of his library.
Tarsila was the aunt of the geologist Sérgio Estanislau do Amaral.
Studies in São Paulo and Barcelona
Tarsila do Amaral studied in São Paulo, at a nun’s college in the Santana neighborhood and at Sion College. And he completed his studies in Barcelona, Spain, at the Sacré-Coeur College.
When arriving from Europe, in 1906, married with the doctor André Teixeira Pinto. Her husband opposed the artistic development of Tarsila and demanded exclusively dedicated to domestic life, leading to the separation of the couple. The definitive annulment of the marriage took place years later. With him had his only daughter, the girl Dulce, born the same year of the wedding. Tarsila separated soon after the birth of the daughter and returned to live with the parents in the farm, taking Dulce.
He began to learn painting in 1917, with Pedro Alexandrino Borges. He later studied under the German George Fischer Elpons. In 1920, he traveled to Paris and attended the Julian Academy, where he drew nudes and live models intensely. Also studied in the Academy of Émile Renard.
In spite of having had contact with the new tendencies and vanguards, Tarsila only adhered to the modernist ideas when returning to Brazil, in 1922. In a paulistana confeitaria, was presented / displayed by Anita Malfatti to the modernistas Oswald de Andrade, Mário de Andrade and Menotti Del Picchia. These new friends started attending his atelier, forming the Group of Five.
In January 1923, in Europe, Tarsila joined Oswald de Andrade and the couple traveled through Portugal and Spain. Back in Paris, he studied with Cubist artists: he attended the Lhote Academy, met Pablo Picasso and became friends with the painter Fernand Léger, visiting the academy of this master of Cubism, of which Tarsila mainly preserved the smooth technique of painting and a certain influence of Legerian modeling.
Pau-Brasil Phases and Anthropophagy
In 1924, during a trip of “rediscovering Brazil” with the Brazilian modernists and with the French-Swiss poet Blaise Cendrars, Tarsila began his artistic phase “Pau-Brasil”, endowed with notably tropical and Brazilian colors and themes, where the “national animals” (mentioned in a poem by Carlos Drummond de Andrade ), the exuberance of the Brazilian fauna and flora, the machines, rails, symbols of urban modernity.
He married Oswald de Andrade in 1926 and in the same year held his first solo exhibition at the Percier Gallery in Paris. In 1928, Tarsila paints the Abaporu, whose name of indigenous origin means “man who eats human flesh”, work that originated the Anthropophagic Movement, idealized by her husband.
Anthropophagy proposed the digestion of foreign influences, as in the cannibal ritual (in which the enemy is devoured with the belief that one can absorb its qualities), so that the national art gained a more Brazilian face.
In July 1929, Tarsila exhibited her paintings for the first time in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro. That same year, because of the fall of the New York Stock Exchange, known as the Crisis of 1929, Tarsila and her family of farmers feel in their pockets the effects of the coffee crisis and Tarsila loses his farm. Later that same year, Oswald de Andrade separated from Tarsila because he fell in love and decided to marry the revolutionary Patricia Galvao, known as Pagu. Tarsila suffers too much from the separation and the loss of the farm, which leads her to surrender even more to her work in the artistic world.
In 1930, Tarsila obtained the position of conservator of the Pinacoteca of the State of São Paulo. He began organizing the collection catalog of the first São Paulo art museum. However, with the advent of the Getúlio Vargas dictatorship and the fall of Julio Prestes, he lost his position.
Journey to the USSR and social phase
In 1931, Tarsila sold a few paintings of her private collection to travel to the Soviet Union with her new husband, the psychiatrist Osorio Cesar, from Paraiba, who would help her adapt to different forms of political and social thought. The couple traveled to Moscow, Leningrad, Odessa, Constantinople, Belgrade and Berlin. Soon she would be back in Paris, where Tarsila became aware of the problems of the working class. Without money, she worked as a construction worker, painter of walls and doors. He soon got the money to return to Brazil. With the crisis of 1929, she had lost almost all her wealth and fortune.
In Brazil, due to her participation in left-wing political meetings and her arrival after a trip to the USSR, Tarsila is considered a suspect and is arrested, charged with subversion. In 1933, from the painting “Operários”, the artist begins a phase of more social themes, of which examples are the Operarios and Second Class screens. In the mid-thirties, the writer Luis Martins, twenty years younger than Tarsila, becomes his constant companion, first of paintings after the sentimental life. She separates from Osório and marries Luis, with whom she lived until the 50’s.
From the 1940s onwards, Tarsila began painting with styles from previous phases. He exhibited at the 1st and 2nd Biennials of São Paulo and won a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo (MAM) in 1960. It is a special room theme at the 1963 São Paulo Biennial, and the following year it is presented at the 32nd Venice Biennale.
Last decades: 1960 and 1970
In 1965, Louis and separate living alone, underwent a surgery of column, as it was in great pain, and a medical error left her paralyzed, remaining in a wheelchair until his last days.
In 1966, Tarsila lost her only daughter, Dulce, who died of a diabetes attack, to her despair. In these difficult times, Tarsila states, in an interview, her approach to spiritualism.
From there, he starts to sell his pictures, donating part of the money obtained to an institution managed by Chico Xavier, of whom he becomes friend. He visited her, when passing through São Paulo, and they both kept correspondence.
Tarsila do Amaral, the artist-symbol of Brazilian modernism, died at the Beneficência Portuguesa Hospital, in São Paulo, on January 17, 1973 due to natural causes . She was buried in the Consolation Cemetery in white dress, according to her wish.
Representations in culture
Tarsila do Amaral has been portrayed as a character in cinema and television, played by Esther Góes in the film ” Eternamente Pagu ” (1987), Eliane Giardini in the miniseries ” Um Só Coração ” (2004) and ” JK ” (2006).
The artist was also the theme of the play Tarsila, written between November 2001 and May 2002 by Maria Adelaide Amaral. The play was staged in 2003 and published in book form in 2004. The title character was played by the actress Esther Góes and the play also had Oswald de Andrade, Mário de Andrade and Anita Malfatti as characters.
Tarsila do Amaral was honored by the International Astronomical Union, which on November 20, 2008 attributed the name “Amaral” to a crater on the planet Mercury.
In 2008, the Raisonné Tarsila do Amaral Catalog was launched, a complete cataloging of the artist’s works in three volumes, in the realization of Base7 Cultural Projects, sponsored by Petrobras, in partnership with the Pinacoteca of the State of São Paulo, State Secretariat of Culture and Government of the State of São Paulo.
Beginning in 1916, Tarsila do Amaral studied painting in São Paulo. Later she studied drawing and painting with the academic painter Pedro Alexandrino. These were all respected but conservative teachers. Because Brazil lacked a public art museum or significant commercial gallery until after World War II, the Brazilian art world was aesthetically conservative and exposure to international trends was limited.
Returning to São Paulo in 1922, Tarsila was exposed to many things after meeting Anita Malfatti, Oswald de Andrade, Mário de Andrade, and Menotti Del Picchia. These fellow artists formed a group that was named “the Grupo Dos Cinco”. Prior to her arrival in São Paulo from Europe, the group had organized the Semana de Arte Moderna (“Week of Modern Art”) during the week of February 11–18, 1922. The event was pivotal in the development of modernism in Brazil. The participants were interested in changing the conservative artistic establishment in Brazil by encouraging a distinctive mode of modern art. Tarsila was asked to join the movement and together they became the Grupo dos Cinco, which sought to promote Brazilian culture, the use of styles that were not specifically European, and the inclusion of things that were indigenous to Brazil.
During a brief return to Paris in 1923, Tarsila was exposed to Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism while studying with André Lhote, Fernand Léger, and Albert Gleizes. European artists in general had developed a great interest in African and primitive cultures for inspiration. This led Tarsila to utilize her own country’s indigenous forms while incorporating the modern styles she had studied. While in Paris at this time, she painted one of her most famous works, A Negra (1923). The principal subject matter of the painting is a large negroid female figure with a single prominent breast. Tarsila stylized the figure and flattened the space, filling in the background with geometric forms.
Excited about her newly developed style and feeling ever more nationalistic, she wrote to her family in April 1923:
“I feel myself ever more Brazilian. I want to be the painter of my country. How grateful I am for having spent all my childhood on the farm. The memories of these times have become precious for me. I want, in art, to be the little girl from São Bernardo, playing with straw dolls, like in the last picture I am working on…. Don’t think that this tendency is viewed negatively here. On the contrary. What they want here is that each one brings the contribution of his own country. This explains the success of the Russian ballet, Japanese graphics and black music. Paris had had enough of Parisian art.”
Oswald de Andrade, who had become her traveling companion, accompanied her throughout Europe. Upon returning to Brazil at the end of 1923, Tarsila and Andrade then traveled throughout Brazil to explore the variety of indigenous culture, and to find inspiration for their nationalistic art. During this period, Tarsila made drawings of the various places they visited which became the basis for many of her upcoming paintings. She also illustrated the poetry that Andrade wrote during their travels, including his pivotal book of poems entitled Pau Brasil, published in 1924. In the manifesto of the same name, Andrade emphasized that Brazilian culture was a product of importing European culture and called artists to create works that were uniquely Brazilian in order to “export” Brazilian culture, much like the wood of the Brazil tree had become an important export to the rest of the world. In addition, he challenged artists to use a modernist approach in their art, a goal they had strived for during the Semana de Arte Moderna in São Paulo.
During this time, Tarsila’s colors became more vibrant. In fact, she wrote that she had found the “colors I had adored as a child. I was later taught they were ugly and unsophisticated.” Her initial painting from this period was E.C.F.B.(Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil), (1924). Furthermore, at the time, she had an interest in industrialization and its impact on society.
In 1926, Tarsila married Andrade and they continued to travel throughout Europe and Middle East. In Paris, in 1926, she had her first solo exhibition at the Galerie Percier. The paintings shown at the exhibition included São Paulo (1924), A Negra (1923), Lagoa Santa (1925), and Morro de Favela (1924). Her works were praised and called “exotic”, “original”, “naïve”, and “cerebral”, and they commented on her use of bright colors and tropical images.
While in Paris, she was exposed to surrealism and after returning to Brazil, Tarsila began a new period of painting where she departed from urban landscapes and scenery, and began incorporating surrealist style into her nationalistic art. This shift also coincided with a larger artistic movement in São Paulo and other parts of Brazil which focused on celebrating Brazil as the country of the big snake Cities also impacted the way that her art was formed. Including vertical representations of the buildings in large cities, like Sao Paulo, her art became iconic. These pieces of art that she made could include small aspects of the city, like a gas pump, or large elements like buildings. Her mix of detail was important because those details made up the city. Building on the ideas of the earlier Pau-Brasil movement, artists strove to appropriate European styles and influences in order to develop modes and techniques that were uniquely theirs and Brazilian. This Pau-Brasil movement was a concept that was modernistic of Brasil.
Tarsila’s first painting during this period was Abaporu (1928), which had been given as an untitled painting to Andrade for his birthday. The subject is a large stylized human figure with enormous feet sitting on the ground next to a cactus with a lemon-slice sun in the background. Andrade selected the eventual title, Abaporu, which is an Indian term for “man eats”, in collaboration with the poet Raul Bopp. This was related to the then current ideas regarding the melding of European style and influences. Soon after, Andrade wrote his Anthropophagite Manifesto, which literally called Brazilians to devour European styles, ridding themselves of all direct influences, and to create their own style and culture. Colonialism played a role in her work; Tarsila incorporated this concept into her art. Instead of being devoured by Europe, they would devour Europe themselves. Andrade used Abaporu for the cover of the manifesto as a representation of his ideals. The following year the manifesto’s influence continued, Tarsila painted Antropofagia (1929), which featured the Abaporu figure together with the female figure from A Negra from 1923, as well as the Brazilian banana leaf, cactus, and again the lemon-slice sun.
In 1929, Tarsila had her first solo exhibition in Brazil at the Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, and was followed by another at the Salon Gloria in São Paulo. In 1930, she was featured in exhibitions in New York and Paris. Unfortunately, 1930 also saw the end of Tarsila and Andrade’s marriage. This brought an end to their collaboration.
Later career and death
In 1931, Tarsila traveled to the Soviet Union. While there, she had exhibitions of her works in Moscow at the Museum of Occidental Art, and she traveled to various other cities and museums. The poverty and plight of the Russian people had a great effect on her, as seen in her painting Workers (Operarios) (1933). Upon her return to Brazil in 1932, she became involved in the São Paulo Constitutional Revolt against the dictatorship in Brazil, led by Getúlio Vargas. Along with others who were seen as leftist, she was imprisoned for a month because her travels made her appear to be a communist sympathizer.
The remainder of her career she focused on social themes. Representative of this period is the painting Segundo Class (1931), which has impoverished Russian men, women and children as the subject matter. She also began writing a weekly arts and culture column for the Diario de São Paulo, which continued until 1952.
In 1938, Tarsila finally settled permanently in São Paulo where she spent the remainder of her career painting Brazilian people and landscapes. In 1950, she had an exhibition at Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo where a reviewer called her “the most Brazilian of painters here, who represents the sun, birds, and youthful spirits of our developing country, as simple as the elements of our land and nature…. She died in São Paulo 1973. Tarsila’s life is a mark of the warm Brazilian character and an expression of it tropical exuberance.”
Besides the 230 paintings, hundreds of drawings, illustrations, prints, murals, and five sculptures, Tarsila’s legacy is her effect on the direction of Latin American art. Tarsila moved modernism forward in Latin America, and developed a style unique to Brazil. Following her example, other Latin American artists were influenced to begin utilizing indigenous Brazilian subject matter, and developing their own style. The Amaral Crater on Mercury is named after her.
In 2018 MoMA opened a solo exhibition of her work, the eighth retrospective on Latin America artists following exhibitions on Diego Rivera, Cândido Portinari, Roberto Matta, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Armando Reverón, José Clemente Orozco and Joaquín Torres García.
An Angler, 1920s, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia
“A Negra”, 1923,
Cuca, 1924, Museum of Grenoble, France
Landscape with Bull, 1925, Private Collector
O Ovo, 1928, Gilberto Chateaubriand, Rio de Janeiro
Abaporu, 1928, Eduardo Constantini, MALBA, Buenos Aires
Lake, 1928, Private Collection, Rio de Janeiro
Antropofagia, 1929, Paulina Nemirovsky, Nemirovsky Foundation, San Pablo
Sol poente, 1929, Private Collection, São Paulo
Segundo Class, 1933, Private Collection, São Paulo
Retrato de Vera Vicente Azevedo, 1937, Museu de Arte Brasileira, São Paulo
Purple Landscape with 3 Houses and Mountains, 1969–72, James Lisboa Escritorio de Arte, São Paulo
1922 – Salon de la Societe des Artistes Français in Paris (group)
1926 – Galerie Percier, Paris (solo)
1928 – Galerie Percier, Paris (solo)
1929 – Palace Hotel, Rio de Janeiro (solo)
1929 – Salon Gloria, São Paulo (solo)
1930 – New York (group)
1930 – Paris (group)
1931 – Museum of Occidental Art, Moscow
1933 – I Salon Paulista de Bellas Artes, São Paulo (group)
1951 – I Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo (group)
1963 – VII Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo (group)
1963 – XXXII Venice Bienalle, Venice (group)
2005 – Woman: Metamorphosis of Modernity, Fundacion Joan Miró, Barcelona (group)
2005 – Brazil: Body Nostalgia, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan (group)
2006 – Salao of 31: Diferencas in Process, National Museum of Beautiful Arts, Rio de Janeiro (group)
2006 – Brazilian Modern Drawing: 1917-1950, Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro (group)
2006 – Ciccillo, Museum of Art Contemporary of the University of São Paulo, São Paulo (group)
2007 – A Century of Brazilian Art: Collection of Gilbert Chateaubriand, Museum Oscar Niemeyer, Curitiba (group)
2009 – Tarsila do Amaral, Fundación Juan March, Madrid
2017 – Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (solo)
2018 – Brasil: Body & Soul, The Guggenheim, New York (group)
2018 – Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil, Museum of Modern Art, New York (solo)
Source from Wikipedia