Saturday, January 06, 2018

Appreciating Some "Rio" Artistry: Tarsila do Amaral and Modern Art in Brazil (including numerous examples from the MNBA in Rio de Janeiro)

Tarsila do Amaral. Abaporu, 1928.
Art Exploration
focusing on:

Tarsila do Amaral
Inventing Modern Art in Brazil
Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago
Thru January 7, 2018
Exhibition website

Paintings in the collection of the
Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Visited March 2014
Museum website | Brazilian paintings

On an early December visit to the Art Institute of Chicago--I go at least a few times each year--I noted and perused an exhibition on the Brazilian painter Tarsila do Amaral, with whom I was not previously familiar.

Known primarily by just her first name, Tarsila lived from 1886-1973 and per the exhibit's subtitle--Inventing Modern Art in Brazil--she was among the first, and most influential, modern artists in Brazil.

I enjoyed the thorough but relatively compact exhibition within the AIC's Modern Wing, and appreciated Tarsila's vibrant use of color.

Tarsila do Amaral. Anthropology, 1929
Having opened in October, the exhibit is closing tomorrow, so this article doesn't provide much of a chance for you to go see it, even if you're in the Chicago area. (In my defense, I traveled to New York City soon after my Art Institute visit and then got caught up in my barrage of Best of 2017 posts.)

But while I found my brief exploration of some of Tarsila's art worthwhile, I spent less than 30 minutes in the exhibit space, as part of a membership visit (i.e. no direct cost), and a bit short of being blown away, I wouldn't advocate that the showcase is (or was) in itself a reason to rush down to the AIC. (Though do check it out if you get there tomorrow.)

Besides liking, if not quite loving, the paintings on an acute level, what intrigued me about the Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil exhibition are the memories it stoked of seeing and enjoying modern art on my trip to Rio de Janeiro in the spring of 2014.

Tarsila do Amaral. Postcard, 1929
Although I love exploring art museums almost anywhere I travel, I can't say visiting the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes was the highlight of my time in Rio, what with Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and boardwalks, Sugarloaf mountain, Christ the Redeemer statue upon Mount Corcovado, the Selarón Steps, soccer game at Maracana stadium, some fine food and more.

But though supposedly not even the most popular art museum in Rio de Janeiro, nor as good as some in São Paulo, the MNBA--the Portuguese translates to National Museum of Fine Arts--provided, along with the Confeitaria Colombo and some other sights, strong justification for venturing to downtown Rio.

And though the museum's collections don't represent many well-known French, Italian, Spanish and other international artists, much of what I saw was enticing...and surprisingly familiar.

Tarsila do Amaral. Carnaval em Madureira, 1924
Not familiar in terms of having seen those particular paintings previously--even as print or electronic reproductions--or other work by the same artists.

But stylistically.

Especially in terms of work dating from the 1880s to 1960s--roughly the delineation of "Modern Art" as I know it--there seemed to be high quality paintings rather analogous to many I well-knew and liked, but by Brazilian artists I never even knew existed.

Academically, this shouldn't be so shocking, as talented artists everywhere have long followed what was being created in Paris and later New York, and often even relocated there. (The Art Institute's exhibit on Tarsila do Amaral, "the first major museum exhibition in North America devoted to the artist, focuses on her work in the 1920s, when she traveled between São Paulo and Paris.")

But I recall that I was walking through the MNBA in Rio, it almost felt as if I'd entered a parallel universe, seeing paintings that could have fit into the fine Abstract Expressionist collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum, or hung near those by Mark Rothko in dozens of museums, or rivaled many fairly recognizable practitioners who followed in the wake of Monet, Manet, Picasso, Matisse, O'Keeffe, Rivera and Hopper--and yet were by Brazilian artists presumably unknown even to devoted art lovers in the United States.

Tarsila do Amaral. Workers, 1933
So with apologies for publicizing it in my small little corner of the world with just one day remaining, the Art Institute's Tarsila do Amaral exhibit--it will run at New York's Museum of Modern Art from Feb. 11-June 3--makes for a good excuse to now share images of "modern" Brazilian art seen in Rio back in 2014.

All of the paintings shown thus far in this post--click on any to see it larger--are of works in the AIC/MOMA exhibit.

Those from here on out--including another by Tarsila--are those I saw at the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes.

I do not mean this to be a comprehensive survey in the realms of modern art of Brazil, the MNBA collection or even what I saw of it. These are largely just some paintings I liked and photographed (permissibly). I didn't photograph all the placards, and regretfully in some cases am not able to provide the artist's name, painting title and/or year of creation.

Candido Portinari (1903-61), Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 1944
Belmiro de Almeida (1858-1935), Tiffs, 1887
José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior. The Model's Rest, 1882
Georgina de Albuquerque. Summer Day, circa 1928
Painter/Title unknown by author
Tarsila do Amaral. Self-Portrait, 1923
Alberto Guinard, Léa and Maura, 1940
João Fahrion, Interior with Figures, 1939
Seemingly signed by "Juima" or "Tuima" in 1950; other details unknown by author
Jose Borges da Costa, Beaten Harlequin, 1947
Artist, subject, title, date unknown by author
Firmino Saldanha, Composition
Loio-Persio, Composition No. 22, circa 1959
Emiliano di Cavalcanti, Slave Ship, 1961
Rubens Gerchman, La Television, 1967

1 comment:

Hemingway1955 said...

Still, a nice respite during a dreary winter. Thanks!