Art from Brazil

painting representing the foundation of rio de janeiro city. headline: "Esta é uma obra sobre a fundação do Rio de Janeiro!"

Hi there, Portuguese students! Today, we will talk about a very interesting topic about Brazilian culture: art from Brazil! Let’s take a trip through the history of art in Brazil and how it evolved with time. if you want to read more about Rio de Janeiro’s museums, we have another great Dica for you. Are you ready? So, pick up your brush and paint, and let’s go!

Timeline for Art in Brazil

Let’s begin by taking a look at this Brazilian art timeline. Although each style began at the period cited below, they can still be performed and used by artists til this day!

timeline for art from brazil. 13.00 - 9.000 B.C.: pre historical art. 9.000 B.C. - present: indigenous art. 1500 - 1670: colonial art. 1670 - 1816: barroque. 1816 - 1850: neoclassicism. 1850 - 1922: romantism, realism, naturalism and simbolism. 1922 - 1951: modernism. 1951 - present: contemporary art.

Art from Brazil: Pre-Historical

Part of a cave painting located in São Francisco das Palmeiras, Bahia. Photo by Chico Ferreira, at Wikicommons.

Brazilian prehistoric art corresponds to hundreds of archaeological sites, scattered throughout the national territory, but mainly in the Northeast. This art corresponds to rock remains found in caves and in places of shelter, painted with mineral and vegetable pigments, and with the blood of animals. The oldest paintings, which are around 15,000 years old, were found in Piauí. At that time, bones, clay, stones, and horns were used to produce utilitarian and ceremonial objects.

Art from Brazil: Indigenous Art

Indigenous Art Fair. Photo by Tetraktys at Wikicommons.

When Brazil was discovered, there were approximately five million indigenous people living here, but after the vast majority died, much of the indigenous art was lost. But it resists until today, mainly in the Amazon region, where the indigenous people manufactured decorative objects and ceramics. Other forms of indigenous art are body painting, feather art, braiding, cloaks, masks, and headdresses. The indigenous people paint their bodies not only to decorate it, but also to defend it against the sun and insects and, according to their tradition, against evil spirits.

Art from Brazil: Colonial Art

Foundation of Rio de Janeiro by Antônio Firmino Monteiro. Picture from Wikicommons.

After the arrival of Pedro Álvares Cabral in the territory that would become Brazil, Portugal transformed it into a colony. At that time, Brazil was influenced by several nations besides the Portuguese, like the Dutch, for example, who had a profound influence on art in Pernambuco. Africans, who were brought to Brazil as slaves, also greatly influenced Brazilian popular culture and how art was done at that time.

Art from Brazil: Barroque

Sant’Ana Mestra (1775-1790) by Aleijadinho. Picture from Wikicommons.

Many of the constructions carried out in the countries of America belong to Baroque art. In Brazil, the Baroque was developed especially in Minas Gerais and the Northeast, mainly through architecture and religious sculpture. A city that even today stands out as the center of the Baroque is Ouro Preto, in Minas Gerais. The Baroque arrived in Brazil through colonizers, particularly Catholic missionaries. The Baroque in Brazil is, therefore, strongly associated with Catholicism. The greatest Baroque figure in Brazil is certainly Aleijadinho, a man with a degenerative disease that made him lose the fingers of his hands, and who worked by tying his chisels to his arms.

If you want to get to know Ouro Preto, consider coming for an immersion with us! You will have one of our native teachers to make you company and teach you all about Barroque while learning Portuguese!

Art from Brazil: Neoclassicism

A Brazilian family in Rio de Janeiro (1839) by Jean-Baptiste Debret. Photo from Wikicommons.

In 1816, the French Artistic Mission came to Brazil. The mission brought Jean-Baptiste Debret, Nicolas-Antoine Taunay, Félix-Émile Taunay, Auguste Taunay and Auguste-Henri-Victor Grandjean de Montigny. These artists sought to portray the colony’s daily life in a romantic way by idealizing the figure of the indigenous person and emphasizing nationalism and natural landscapes. The arrival of the French Artistic Mission in Brazil gave rise to neoclassicism – a movement that advocates a return to classical ideals.

Art from Brazil: From Romantism to Symbolism

O Grito do Ipiranga (1888) by Pedro Américo. Photo from Wikicommons.

From 1850 to 1922, artistic manifestations centered on the main trends of European art in that period predominated. There were mainly four artistic strands going on somewhat at the same time.

Romanticism in Brazil was characterized by the search for national identity and the recovery of traditions and values from popular culture and folklore. The main themes were indigenous peoples, the exaltation of nature, regionalisms, and the social reality of the country.

Realism was an artistic strand that opposed romanticism. Realism in Brazilian literature had objectivity, social criticism, irony, and a focus on psychological descriptions as its main characteristics. The most exponent artist of this period was Machado de Assis!

Naturalism, on the other hand, dialogued with Realism. Its objective was, in general, the life of the poorest population. Antero de Quental and Eça de Queiroz were the most exponent artists of the genre.

Symbolism, on the other hand, was the complete opposite of previous movements. In general, it has the following characteristics: mysticism, musicality, formal rigor, use of ellipses, appreciation of mystery, allegorizing capital letters and synesthesia. Its authors doubted reason and concrete reality and sought to reach the plane of ideas.

Art from Brazil: Modernism

Abaporu (1928) by Tarsila do Amaral. Photo from Wikicommons.

The Modern Art Week, which took place in 1922, was the starting point of Modernism in Brazil, and influenced practically all works of the time. The artistic manifestations of modernism had the objective of translating the new reality and the new yearnings that were imposed on modern man and society. The main Brazilian artist from this period was for sure Tarsila do Amaral.

Art from Brazil: Contemporary Art

Magic Square nº5, projeto de 1977, 2ª versão (2008) by Hélio Oiticica. Photo from Wikicommons.

In 1951, the Book & Art Biennial was founded in São Paulo, which for many marks the beginning of contemporary art in Brazil. Contemporary art prioritizes the concept of the work, far above the final artistic object itself. The aim here is to produce art while reflecting on it. Hélio Oiticica is a big name from this period, who also participated in the Tropicália movement.

How was it? Which was your favorite period? Tell us in the comments and research a new Brazilian artist to cite below!

See you soon!

Click on the links below to see more related Dicas
Museums in Rio
CCBB in Rio de Janeiro
Imperial Palace in Rio de Janeiro
Independence Day in Brazil

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