Tarsila do Amaral


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Brazilian painter, sculptor, and art critic, born in São Paulo, the daughter of a wealthy rancher. She is regarded as one of the major figures in 20th-century Brazilian art, the creator of a style that combined nationalism with modernism. Initially she studied sculpture, but in 1917 she turned to painting. In 1920–22 she studied at the Académie Julian, Paris, but it was not until she returned to Brazil that she became thoroughly converted to modern art, after becoming friendly with Malfatti (see Semana de Arte Moderna) and the avant-garde writer and social agitator Osvald de Andrade, whom she later married. She spent most of 1924 in Europe, this time studying with Gleizes, Léger, and Lhote, and she returned to Brazil with the Swiss poet Blaise Cendrars. With Cendrars and Andrade she began exploring historic towns and started to paint pictures that combined the exotic colour of folk art with the distortions of Cubism, to which she later added elements of Surrealism. This Pau-Brasil (Brazilwood) approach developed into the movement called Antropofagismo (Anthropophagy or Cannibalism), named after a manifesto entitled Antropófago that Andrade published in 1928. ‘The central tenet of Anthropophagy was that the Brazilian artist must devour outside influences, digest them thoroughly and turn them into something new’ (Edward Lucie-Smith, Latin American Art of the 20th Century, 1993). This phase of Tarsila's career was brief, but it is generally thought to be her most creative period. In 1930 Gutúlio Vargas assumed power in Brazil after a revolution and his dictatorship (1930–45) was unsympathetic towards modern art. During this period, influenced partly by a visit to Russia in 1931, Tarsila took up Social Realist themes. After the Second World War she returned to the vivacious colours of her work of the 1920s. Large retrospective exhibitions of her work were held in 1950 (in São Paulo) and 1969 (in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo). In addition to painting and sculpting, she wrote art criticism for many Brazilian newspapers and journals.

Subjects: Art.

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