Trading Million Dollar Paintings for Brazilian Painters

Brazilian Painters - Tarsila de Amaral

Often our lessons, galleries and dining rooms are filled with European painters, however, there is a delicious boldness in the geometric shapes, vivacious colors and campaigns behind Brazilian painters’ work. The story on a painting trade-off at rio’s MAM has inspired this post on contemplating the wonders of less-known Brazilian painters.

Trading Million Dollar Paintings for Brazilian Painters

There are two types of people in this world: those that would sell their grandmother-in-law’s paintings as soon as they show a glint of value; and those who treasure the fugliest of ornaments passed down by a distant relative.

I’m afraid I fit into the former category. The exact sentiment emitted by the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro.

MAM hit headlines because it jumped at the chance to shift a multi-million dollar painting, under the visage that the Pollack was not Brazilian heritage. Brazil is nationalist and it doesn’t need to import foreign paintings when its citizens are bursting with talent.

The painting in question is a James Pollack, named imaginatively… No.16, which will shortly be winging its way to auction. Most likely, it will be snatched up in a heartbeat by the one of the God Father art museums.

Donated by former US vice president Nelson Rockefeller, the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro shows no qualms that an American or European museum will take care of the Pollack. In the meantime, the profits can then be dedicated to protecting works from Brazilian Painters.

So who are those mysterious Brazilian painters?

Here is a list of ten of the best and most influential Brazilian artists.

1. Tarsila do Amaral

Tarsila de Amaral's Abaporu at the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires
Tarsila do Amaral’s Abaporu the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires (MALBA)

Tarsila do Amaral’s art reaches out and slaps you in the face with strong images and feisty colors. It emanates the bold patterns and shapes I so often see on Brazilian’s clothes.

Striking yet so simple.

Amaral was brought up on a rich coffee plantation, but like many Brazilian painters on this list she received education in Europe. Her painting “Antropofagia” is the most expensive in the history of Brazil and speaks volumes about the country’s discrimination left behind after slavery.

Best places to see Tarsila do Amaral’s paintings:

Moma in New York.

Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires.

Take a closer look at Amaral’s paintings in this digital gallery.

2. The Bracher Family 

Bracher by Footloose Lemon Juice Brazilian Painters

Carlos Bracher comes from a famous family of painters that live in a real life castle in Juiz de Fora.

The father was a German immigrant, who arrived and began to sell two products. Beer and handmade porcelain items. These porcelain products were painted by the family themselves and therefore, the children learnt how to paint from an early age. Though the shops may have closed, as well as the art school they founded, the children remain great Brazilian painters.

Best places to see Carlos Bracher’s paintings:

Bracher has two paintings inside the President of Chamber of Deputies meeting room in the Brazilian congress in the capital Brasília. You will be able to view the paintings during one of the free guided tours.

3. Romero Britto

Romero Britto is a pop art painter. His art is florescent, in your face and often makes appearances on ladies’ handbags. He is pretty difficult to miss.

Britto is known for dedicating money and paintings to children’s hospitals, as well as funding environmental projects for the protection of the Amazon rain forest.

Best places to see Romero Britto’s paintings:

Romero Britto gallery in Miami, Florida.

Galleria 3rd in New York.

4. Roberto Burle Marx 

Burle Marx on the right from a private collection.

Not strictly a Brazilian painter, Burle Marx actually specializes most famously in landscaping and botany. Favoring curving shapes, appearing like interlocking waves, his work in gardens and paintings are easy to spot.

Perhaps his most notable pieces could be the Aterro de Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro, which has a spectacle forward view to Sugarloaf Mountain. On top of this he designed most of the parks in the capital Brasília, in which his work goes hand in hand with that of the Architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Best places to see Roberto Burle Marx gardens and paintings:

Aterro do Flamengo the beach park in the Flamengo neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.

Ibirapuera Park project, São Paulo, Brazil.

Museum of Art of São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand.

Museo Nacional de Belas Artes Rio de Janeiro.

Take a closer look at Marx’s digital gallery.

5. Siron Franco 

Painting by Brazilian painter Siron Franco
Painting by Siron Franco from a private collection

Siron Franco’s art is often shocking, since he uses his art to campaign against human or environmental right violations.

One famous attribution belongs to the Goiania nuclear disaster. A tragedy little known outside Brazil itself. The history goes that a company dumped nuclear waste on the outskirts of a town in the state of Goias. Afterwards, local children unknowingly entered the site and finding the florescent material began playing with it. Then even carried pieces home to show it to their community. Some kept the nuclear material in their houses for years and it was far too late when the symptoms of radioactive exposure began to show.

Similarly, during the Rio + 20 conference on World Environmental Goals, Siron’s art was displayed renouncing the damage caused by a criminal fire that engulfed the Portuguese Cerrado, also located in his home state.

Siron is a great artist to contemplate the actions of humans and the consequences that outlive erroneous or negligent actions.

6. Francisco Galeno 

Francisco Galeno painting of skyscrapers from a private collection
Francisco Galeno painting of skyscrapers from a private collection

Galeno’s paintings are bright, geometric and abstract reproductions of city scenes. His paintings are a splash of vivacity in a room.

Where to see Francisco Galeno’s paintings:

In Brasília, Galeno painted the entire inside of a small church (Igrejinha Nossa Senhora de Fátima). The illustrations tell the story of the appearance of the Saint Fátima in Portugal, the story which gives the church its name.

Read more about what to see and do in Brasília here.

Take a look at a digital gallery of Galeno’s works here.

7. Arcangelo Ianelli

Ianelli is a multiaward winning Brazilian artist, praised for his technically impressive use of color. Speciallizing in abstract art by painting shapes with intricate details of lighting. His paintings of a box will cost more than your house.

Best places to see Ianelli’s work:

Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.

Museu Nacional de Belas Artes.

Take a look at a digital collection of Ianelli’s work here.

8. Candido Portinari

Candido Portinari, Peace, 1952-1956 UN Headquarters
Peace, 1952-1956 UN Headquarters, Candido Portinari
Candido Portinari, War, 1952-1956 UN Headquarters
War, 1952-1956 UN Headquarters, Candido Portinari

Portinari commissioned a piece of artwork for the United Nation’s headquarters, said to represent the alignment of countries that takes place within the organization. Portinari also used toxic substances in his paint something which despite fervent warnings, eventually led to his death from lead poisoning in 1962.

For a more detailed overview of Candido Portinari read Andrea Fernandes’ journalistic entrance.

Best places to see Portinari’s paintings:

MoMa in New York.

Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires.

The Portinari website is a great source for more information and has a digital collection of his works.

9. Alberto da Veiga Guignard

Ouro Preto by Alberto da Veiga Guignard is on display at MoMa in NY

Talk about a traumatic life, Alberto da Veiga Guignard had it all.

Born with a cleft lip, followed by his dad’s passing in an accident, left by his new wife on his honeymoon and completely broke for most of his life. Veiga Guignard dedicated his time focusing instead on his artwork and created a masterpiece that fetched 5.3 million at auction.

Best places to see Guignard’s paintings:

MoMa in New York.

Read more about Guignard (in Portuguese) and see examples of his work here.

Visit the Guignard House and Museum in Ouro Preto, where many of his paintings and illustrated letters are on display.

10. Alfredo Volpi

On display at the MoMa

Volpi enjoys painting flags. The Brazilian version of bunting the flags featured below feature at the harvest festivals called Juninos. Juninas festivities center around fall corn based foods, sweet honey wine and toffee apples. Celebrated in the countryside they are introsically linked to Catholic Saints of the harvest.

Best places to see Volpi’s paintings:

MoMa in New York.

Museu Nacional de Belas Artes.

Take a look at Volpi’s paintings in this virtual gallery.

Changing Cultural Stereotypes

As a final thought, perhaps we can sum up the courage to pardon the MAM museum for shunning non-Brazilian artwork, since the country is bursting at the seams with native Brazilian artists.

Indeed the Brazilian art scene stretches from countryside scenery, pop art, geometric shapes, to masterpiece brown boxes, and it can cater for any taste.

Delving a little into Brazilian history through art may just alter many stereotypical views of Brazil’s culture.

Encouraging an understanding that Brazil is much more than tiny bikinis and samba drums.

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