Anita Malfatti and Tarsila do Amaral: gender, Brasilidade and the modernist landscape.
By the first decades of the twentieth century, Brazilians were eager to distance themselves culturally from their colonial heritage. During this period of intense nation building, the Brazilian leadership and intellectual elite promoted nationalism as a strategy to resist both the legacy of colonialism and European influences. Even so, their relationship with European culture was tense. The emerging avant-garde strove to achieve the modern social and technological advances already well under way in Europe; they supported industrialization, economic progress, and artistic evolution because they believed such advances would enable Brazil to compete economically and culturally on the global stage. Hence, the Brazilian modernizing movement was not just a process of seeking an authentic Brasilidade but rather of creating an entirely new cultural paradigm from scratch. (1)
Landscape painting came to be understood as a mode of establishing and expressing national identity--especially in the Latin American context. (2) During the colonial period, European traveler-artists produced images of the Brazilian landscape and its native people, not just to scientifically catalog the region, but also to construct representations of native people and cultures that would bolster the colonial agenda of promoting immigration and economic exploitation. (3) The nineteenth-century European traveler-artists' Romantic landscapes and costumbrista studies influenced younger, homegrown Latin American artists to express their own "national aspirations" by crafting their own images of their homeland. (4) By the second decade of the twentieth century, a new generation
of Brazilian artists was eager to assert Brasilidade through the novel language of modernism, some by painting the Brazilian landscape.
Two of the most significant Brazilian modern artists to exploit landscape painting's potential to articulate Brasilidade were Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973) and Anita Malfatti (1889-1964), the only two women in the Grupo dos Cinco (The Group of Five), a group of five Sao Paulo-based artists and writers who during the 1920s promoted modernist art and literature. (5) Despite the two women's close friendship and intertwined personal and artistic relationships, most art historical studies of them have examined them independently. While Malfatti is generally considered the instigator of Brazilian modernism, her later work is framed as uniformly conservative and uninteresting; in contrast, Amaral, whose artistic innovations came five years after Malfatti's, is regularly positioned as the most significant Brazilian modernist painter of the period.
Situating the two artists' work in a complex and dynamic relationship to one another allows a critical reevaluation of Malfatti's and Amaral's landscapes from the 1920s to the 1940s. In fact, the tendency towards a more folkloric style was evident in the later work of Amaral as well as Malfatti's. An examination of both demonstrates how both women articulated in their landscapes a similar vision of Brasilidade that was rooted in Brazil's African and Amerindian populations as well as in vernacular and rural culture.
Anita Malfatti, born in Sao Paulo, was the second child of an Italian railroad engineer, Samuel Malfatti, and a German American, Eleonora Elizabeth "Betty" Krug. (6) A congenital atrophy of the right arm and hand was only partially corrected by surgery at the age of three. Thanks to a governess who trained her as a child to use her left hand for writing and drawing, this disability did not prevent her from becoming an artist. After four years of private art lessons with her mother, Malfatti travelled to Germany in 1910, where she studied with Lovis Corinth, and was introduced to works by the French Symbolists and Post-Impressionists at the great Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne in 1912. When she returned briefly to Brazil in 1914, she presented her first solo exhibition, at a local department store, which went largely unnoticed. (7)
The following year, her family sent her to New York, where she enrolled at the Art Students League, studying life drawing, composition, and etching. (8) In the summer of 1915, she took an excursion to Monhegan Island, Maine, to study art with the American landscape painter, Homer Boss. (9) She considered this fruitful time in her artistic formation "the greatest period of her life." (10) She began painting colorful, violent, distorted portraits and promptly enrolled at Boss's Independent School of Art in New York, where she took anatomy and design courses with Boss, and rubbed elbows with the artists associated with the school, including Isadora Duncan, Marcel Duchamp, Maxim Gorki, and Jean Crotti. Following another summer on Monhegan Island with Boss and his students, she returned home to Sao Paulo.
The portfolio she brought back reflected the modernist techniques she had been absorbing in New York. Her family was displeased when they saw her Cubo-Expressionist nude studies and portraits, such as A Boba (The Silly Woman) (1915-16; Pl. 11), depicting a mentally disabled woman seated in front of an abstracted background, executed in a vivid palette of bright yellows, blues, and greens; and Expressionist landscapes painted in sweeping strokes of bold colors. (11) Despite her family's reservations, she was encouraged to show her work by a group of Paulista journalists and intellectuals, led by the painter, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti. Toward the end of 1917, in a rented room on Rua Libero Badaro, she exhibited this work along with a selection of works by other artists she'd met in New York. (12) Malfatti hoped to avoid controversy, wanting to introduce the public to new artistic currents, rather than incite shock. (13) She carefully selected fifty-three works for the exhibition, omitting, for example, her male nudes, such as Ritmo (Torso) (Rhythm [Torso]) (1915-16; (Fig. 1), a confident and expressive pastel depicting a male gymnast seen from behind done in bold oranges, blues, and blacks. Instead, she opted for less controversial works such as Tropical (1916; Fig. 2). Completed shortly after her return to Brazil, it demonstrated a more muted palette and less abstract motifs than A Boba (also omitted from the exhibition). (14) Malfatti's show nonetheless sparked outrage. (15) Paulista audiences, who had yet to be introduced to Impressionism, much less to Postimpressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, or Cubism, were scandalized, and the exhibition was widely derided.16
There were defenders--including Oswald de Andrade, the young journalist and poet who had brought Marinetti's "Futurist Manifesto" to Sao Paulo a few years earlier. Even so, the negative reception of her work so disturbed Malfatti that she sank into a depression. When she began painting again, she returned to a more conservative style: conventional portraits and landscapes depicting folkloric scenes and rural life, such as As Lavadeiras (The Washers) (1920; Fig. 3), an Impressionist-inflected scene in a colorful palette. She also began studying with the academic still-life painter, Pedro Alexandrino, in whose studio she met and befriended Tarsila do Amaral, three years her senior.
Like Malfatti, Amaral had a privileged upbringing. She was born into a wealthy coffee-growing family on a farm in Capivari, in the interior of the state of Sao Paulo. (17) In 1906, at age twenty, she was married to her mother's cousin, Andre Teixeira Pinto, who fathered her only child, Dulce. He did not share her passion for books, music, and art, and the marriage suffocated Amaral. Women of the bourgeoisie were not expected to abandon unhappy marriages or to pursue higher education, but Amaral separated from her husband in 1913 and moved to Sao Paulo to study art; her stunned family agreed to care for her daughter.
For three years, beginning in 1916, Amaral studied with several teachers, including Alexandrino. She and Malfatti also attended figure-drawing sessions (with nude models) in the studio of the German painter, Georg Fischer Elpons. In 1920, Amaral went to Paris, where she took classes at the Academie Julian and studied with Emile Renard, under whose tutelage she produced a series of Impressionist paintings. (18) She corresponded regularly with Malfatti, reporting on her discovery of the new art movements.
I have already been to the Grand Palais at the Autumn Salon: look, Anita, almost everything tends towards Cubism or Futurism.... Many Impressionist landscapes, others are Dadaist in style. You must certainly already be familiar with Dadaism, but I only came to know it now.... I disagree with exaggerated Cubism or Futurism. The general public still does not accept these things here. I spent a lot of time in front of the most extravagant paintings, only to hear comments such as "That's a mystery! What is that? The artist himself doesn't even know," etc. (19)
That November, almost three years to the day after her traumatic 1917 show, Malfatti mounted her second exhibition, in the Clube Comercial de Sao Paulo. She showed her new conservative paintings that celebrated the daily lives of the rural women in the Brazilian countryside. Her work, described as more "feminine" and nationalistic, received tepid praise. (20)
For her third exhibition, in Santos, in February 1921, Malfatti returned to a modernist style. (21) She wrote to Amaral, "I'm returning to very modern things, because these are the kinds of things that fill my soul with happiness." (22) She also mentions her new friends, a coterie of male modernists, including Menotti del Picchia, Mario de Andrade, and Oswald de Andrade. (23) Indeed, while Amaral was making Impressionist paintings in Paris, Malfatti's new friends were busy organizing the legendary Semana de Arte Moderna, the week of modern art, literature, and music events held in February 1922 in the Municipal Theater of Sao Paulo. Coinciding with the centenary celebration of Brazil's independence, the Semana was aimed at introducing Brazil to international modernism, while also underscoring the country's regional heritage. It was organized by Di Cavalcanti and Mario de Andrade, and featured readings by Mario, Oswald, and Ronald de Carvalho, as well as music by Heitor Villa-Lobos, sculpture by Victor Brecheret, and paintings by Vicente Rego Monteiro, Di Cavalcanti, and Malfatti.
When Amaral returned to Brazil a few weeks later, she was introduced to the group through Malfatti, and together with del Picchia, Mario, and Oswald, they formed the Grupo dos Cinco. Malfatti and Amaral frequented one another's studios, shared ideas and approaches to painting, and sometimes even painted the same subjects side by side, as is the case with two depictions of the same floral still life (1922; Pls. 12 and 13). (24) Notably, Amaral's composition, which includes a chair and flowered wallpaper in the background, is executed in softer colors and with tepid brushwork reminiscent of Malfatti's earlier Impressionist works. In contrast, Malfatti's approach is bolder, more closely cropped, with thicker paint, more expressive brushwork, and a richer palette. Indeed, while Malfatti had gained the respect of her colleagues as an established modernist, Amaral was not yet recognized as a fully realized artist. (25) In surveying Amaral's work from this period, it is apparent that her paintings, which are more expressive than her Impressionist works from Paris, clearly demonstrate a formal influence from Malfatti.
When Amaral left again for Paris in December 1922, Oswald followed her, and the two became romantically involved (despite her still being married). During a yearlong stay, she studied with Andre Lhote, Fernand Leger, and Albert Gleizes, and began to combine "cool Cubist aesthetics with the contemporary preoccupation with machine imagery and industrialization." (26)
1923 proved to be Amaral's breakout year. Influenced by the Parisian avant-garde's predilection for primitivism, she produced her first major Cubist-inspired work, A Negra (1923; Pl. 14) a Cubo-Primitivist depiction of a semi-abstracted black female figure, which according to the Brazilian writer Alexandre Eulalio, epitomized "Tarsila's voyage back to the center of her country." (27) Amaral became more visible within the social scene of the Parisian avant-garde. She rented a studio with Oswald near Place Clichy and attended the Ballet Russe, the opera, poetry readings, and Dada and Surrealist manifestations. As Amaral's reputation grew, her relationship with Malfatti became strained.
Malfatti arrived in Paris eight months after Amaral, on a scholarship from the Pensionato Artistico do Estado de Sao Paulo.28 Malfatti remained in Paris for five years living off her scholarship, while Amaral traveled back and forth between Paris and Brazil numerous times (often in the company of Oswald) during the same period. (29) Their friendship cooled: while Amaral was undergoing a period of intense artistic development and enjoying a lavish and active social life among Paris avant-garde, Malfatti was more isolated and her means more modest. (30) Ultimately, they were competing for "'which of us is the best?' each one hurting the other with the evidence of which one was superior. In this case, this year , it was Tarsila." (31) Amaral wrote to her family, "In our first meeting in the hotel, [Anita] gave me the notion that instead of a friend I had a rival." (32) Three years later, Mario wrote to Tarsila, "Have you guys seen Anita yet? ... Look, don't forget to arrange things to make everyone friends again. I don't like all this bickering." (33)
Malfatti began producing landscapes on her travels throughout Europe, such as Veneza Canaletto (Little Venice Canal) (1924; Fig. 4) and Porto de Monaco (The Port of Monaco) (1925-26), that demonstrate a more delicate brushwork and attention to naturalistic color and the effects of light. "Now courage, prepare yourself," she wrote to Mario in 1924. "I'm classical now! As a futurist, I'm already dead and buried." (34) Mario disapproved of this direction, and his unfavorable comparisons of her work to Amaral's new Cubist-influenced pieces, irritated Malfatti. While Amaral's subjects, such as Veneza (Venice) (1923; Fig. 5) and Pont Neuf (1923), may have been similar to Malfatti's--pleasing vistas of European city and waterscapes--Amaral's execution was more experimental, bearing the imprint of her Cubist teachers: Fernand Leger, in the simple tubular forms of the Venetian boats and buildings, and Andre Lhote, in the fracturing and faceting of the Pont Neuf.
When Amaral and Oswald returned to Brazil in 1924, they brought with them the Swiss-French poet Blaise Cendrars. In an interview with the Correio da Manha newspaper, Amaral, whose newly minted reputation as a feted modernist preceded her, stressed her desire to revisit to her roots: "I am deeply Brazilian and I'm going to study the taste and the art of our country folk." (35) After attending Carnival in Rio, the threesome travelled into the Brazilian interior during Holy Week, visiting several small towns in the Minas Gerais region. Inspired by the tropical vegetation, country houses, homemade altars, and colors of the folk decorations, Amaral drew incessantly. She later recalled, "In Minas I found the colors I loved when I was a child, the capaira (rural) colors. I was ... taught they were ugly and unsophisticated ... but later I retaliated against this oppression." (36)
This quest for authenticity initiated Amaral's Pau-Brasil (Brazilwood) style, in which she combined naive painting with Cubism. It was inspired by the ideas expressed by Oswald in his March 1924 "Pau-Brasil Manifesto," which aimed to fuse the primitive and folkloric with modern science and industry. (37) In works such as Mamoeiro (Papaya Tree) (1925; Fig. 6) and Pescador (Angler) (1925; Pl. 15), Amaral depicts rural life and the tropical environment in her signature style of smoothly contoured cartoon-like shapes in a palette of soothing blues and greens. Using a new language combining modernism and industrialism--inspired by smooth, hard machine parts--she synthesizes the fantasy of an idyllic rural life as quintessentially and authentically Brazilian. She described these paintings as "beautiful, clean, [and] lustrous like a Rolls leaving the factory." (38) As she moved toward assimilating European stylistic influences, making them her own, she eclipsed Malfatti as the face of modernist painting in Brazil.
Her marriage finally annulled, Amaral married Oswald in 1926, and they returned to Paris with Dulce and Andrade's son None. Two solo exhibitions in Paris, in 1926 and 1928, were widely praised, followed by successful solo shows in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in 1929, and group exhibitions in Paris and New York in 1930. (39)
Back in Brazil, Malfatti showed her work in Sao Paulo in February 1929.40 She claimed that her stylized portraits and figurative groupings demonstrated her engagement with the 1920s "Return to Order" of the School of Paris. (41) Even her former supporters found the work too conservative. (42) A critic for the Diario Nacional described the work as "very poorly made paintings, of unimportant themes, and nothing else." (43)
It is important to understand the relationship between Brasilidade and the Brazilian landscape. From the time of the European discovery of Brazil, its vast landscape was seen as both Edenic paradise and savage wilderness. (44) By the late nineteenth century, Brazil's own national identity was bifurcated: on the one hand was an exotic terra incognita inhabited by indigenous people, on the other was its cities and urban non-black middle class. In the early twentieth century, the Amerindian served as a figure of fascination, and during the post-independence period, indigenous people came to represent the nation-state itself. (45) Indeed, both the native people and the rural landscape were used as symbols of authentic Brazilian identity, part of the project of post-colonial identity formation. Such discourse was produced from a masculinist and ethnocentric point of view, exploiting an idealized image of the noble savage while preventing the actual political participation of women, blacks, and indigenous people. (46) Similarly, the desire to legitimate the emerging nation was accomplished through gendered discourses that equated the indigenous woman's body with the fertile, uncultivated land.
This kind of paradoxical discourse constructed around race, gender, and the landscape is evident in a comparison of Malfatti's India (Indian Girl) (1917; Pl. 16), with Amaral's A Negra. While it is significant that Malfatti was the first to assert modern Brasilidade by equating a nude indigenous woman with the luxuriant and fertile Brazilian jungle, Amaral's Cubist-inflected depiction--related to a memory of her "black nanny" during her childhood on the farm--demonstrates a more sophisticated articulation of her own unique style. (47) Even so, despite their admirable attempts to give visibility to Brazilian women of color, both artists nonetheless presented exotified representations which trade in stereotypes and may seem problematic, considering their shared white, upper class, cosmopolitan backgrounds.
In 1928, Amaral began a new body of work, the Antropofagia series, influenced by Oswald's "Manifesto Antropofago." Antropofagia is based on the idea that the Brazilian artist must devour foreign influences, digest them, and convert them into something new and authentically Brazilian. (48) A line drawing based on Amaral's painting, Abaporu (1928), accompanied the manifesto in the first issue of the Revista de Antropofagia. (49) This depiction of a distorted giant seated in a simplified tropical landscape reveals a shift in her preoccupation with the village landscapes of her Pau-Brasil period to images of primordial figures in nature, most of which can be understood as indigenous or mixed race women. Antropofagia (1929), another work from this period, depicting two primordial figures intertwined before a verdant jungle backdrop of thick leaves and cacti, represents a synthesis of A Negra and Abaporu. Equating indigenous bodies with the lush Brazilian landscape, it articulates the ideals of modern Brasilidade. It also reveals Amaral's emerging interest in exploiting her subconscious and dreams, a result of her contact with Paris Surrealism, which replaced Cubism as the main stylistic influence in her work.
The U. S. stock market crash of 1929 caused coffee prices to plummet, resulting in financial instability for many Brazilians, including Amaral. (50) During this period, she also ended her relationship with Oswald, following his affair with the young writer Patricia Galvao (known as Pagu). Amaral's works of this period, including A Lua (The Moon) (1928) and Composicao (Figura so) (Composition [Lonely Figure]) (1930; Pl. 17) portraying figures in nocturnal landscapes, are among the emotionally darkest of her oeuvre. Here her expression of Brasilidade is more personal: she herself is the woman lost in an obscure and alien place. (51)
In 1930, Getulio Vargas rose to power through a coup that resulted in a right-wing dictatorship that lasted until 1945. Vargas's populist regime advocated nationalism, industrialization, and social welfare, and effectively altered the artistic climate. Artists also influenced by the rise of Mexican Muralism focused on social concerns. Amaral's Trabalhadores (Workers) (1938; Fig. 7), for example, portrays one worker's face in extreme close up, set against a surreal landscape of verdant hills while several laborers behind him are up to their knees in the murky water. Similarly, Malfatti's Colheita de Algodao (Picking Cotton) (1940-41; Fig. 8) depicts laborers of color--here female cotton pickers--set against a brown landscape dotted with white cotton plants. By employing the trope of the racialized worker toiling heroically in the landscape, both paintings exemplify this social realist trend, which lauded rural laborers and aligned them with nationalist propaganda. (52) Also like social realism generally, both works are more naturalistic in style, though Amaral's still reveals residues of Cubism, in the faceting of the face in the foreground, and Surrealism, in the dreamlike setting.
During this period, multiple competing artistic clubs formed to provide support to artists, and popular and regional art movements began to emerge, some led by untrained local artists. (53) The rumblings of this transformation had begun as early as 1926, with Gilberto Freye's "Regionalist Manifesto," opposing modernism in favor of regionalism and traditional values. (54) By the mid-thirties, the Grupo Santa Helena, later the Familia Artistica Paulista, was formed to resist intellectualism in art. Most of the members were working class Italian immigrants who were self-taught artists and more concerned with craft than with innovation. (55) Malfatti felt a deep affinity with their stylistic approach, joined the group, and participated in three exhibitions with them in the late thirties. (56)
Paralleling the artists' renewed interest in regionalism, Brazilian writers also focused on rural life in the small towns and farms in the sertao (the country's vast interior backlands) of the northeastern Minas region and in the southern Rio Grande do Sul region. (57) Regional lifestyles and traditions were seen as more authentically Brazilian than life in the European influenced cities. Regionalism and regional types emerged in the cultural imaginary as representative of Brasilidade. (58)
Most importantly, the sertao came to symbolize the value of racial mixing as central to Brasilidade. (59) Freye's hybridic theory of "Lusotropicalism" posited that miscegenation was the central trait of all Brazilian people, and that the feudal agrarian system was the device that nurtured this "harmonious" mixing of the races. (60) While the cities were seen as Brazil's link to the developed world and the U.S., the countryside was understood as the source of Brasilidade.
Even cosmopolitan artists and intellectuals now viewed the rural population as more authentic and principled; as modernism gave way to populism under the Vargas regime, the sertao came to represent an ideal "homeland" not corrupted by the insidious mass consumer culture of the cities. (61) Significantly, both Malfatti and Amaral would reflect these social trends in their work.
By the 1940s, Malfatti was focused almost exclusively on scenes depicting fields and poor neighborhoods, inspired by her visits to places such as Sao Miguel Paulista, Embu, and Itanhaem. (62) While her landscapes of the early forties were devoid of figures, by the middle of the decade, she began including mixed-race people in her scenes, settling on a naive style which successfully navigates her multiple interests in vivid color and Expressionist brushwork tempered with recognizable scenes of folkloric ways of life, as in O Samba (1945), depicting a group of rural people dancing in an outdoor setting. She had finally resolved her life-long internal struggle between modernism and naturalism when she announced her desire to "pintar a seu modo" (paint her own way). (63) Demonstrating an interest in local "primitive" painters, she made the acquaintance of an artist named Emidio Souza from Itanhaem, a municipality in the state of Sao Paulo located in southeastern Brazil. (64) In a 1949 retrospective at the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo, her works included subjects such as parties, dances, processions, marriages, and landscapes. A reviewer wrote that the artist:
faces a sweet nation that she interprets through a continuous movement to the past. Dumbstricken are her sleepy houses of Itanhaem, while its children huddle around the bandstand or on the side of the road.... It seems to me that Anita Malfatti managed to apprehend this Brazilian climate of eternal waiting that lyrically places it between other countries that don't have more time to dream. It is a wait without desperation. (65)
Following a trip to the Soviet Union, Amaral continued to develop her social realist style during the thirties. Works such as Operarios (Factory Workers) (1933) and Segunda Classe (Second Class) (1933) portray the harsh realities of the workers' lives, although her agenda was likely more humanist than political. (66) In 1936, she became a columnist for the Diario de Sao Paulo. She stopped painting for a time, and when she began again, in the spirit of the times, she adopted a more folkloric style. A reviewer of her 1950 retrospective at Museu de Arte Moderna, wrote: "[She is] 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.... Tarsila's life is a mark of the warm Brazilian character and an expression of its tropical exuberance." (67)
Coming full circle, Malfatti and Amaral's works of the forties have similarities, for example, Malfatti's Paisagem Interiorana (Interior Landscape) (1940; Fig. 9), and Amaral's Pueblito (Morro da Favela II) (Little Town [Favela Hill II]) (1945; Fig. 10). Although Malfatti's rudimentary portrayal of village life is executed with loose brushwork in a palette of muted earth tones and Amaral's, in a crisper style and in a lighter palette, there are striking compositional similarities, and both demonstrate an enthusiastic engagement with naive folkloric subjects and techniques.
Amaral's style became less experimental during her later period, and scholars have all but ignored Malfatti's work after the twenties. I believe, however, that their later folkloric works result in compelling expressions of post-colonial Brazilian identity that are worthy of attention. They also attest to the fact that stylistic parallels in their work continued well beyond the period leading up to Semana de Arte Moderna. As Brazilians, the vernacular culture of the sertao and the native cultures of indigenous and Afro-Brazilian peoples always held a special, if problematic, fascination for both artists. As modern women navigating complex discourses around gender, race, and national identity, which had not yet been fully articulated, their images of the people and landscapes of their homeland provided models for grappling with their own identities. Indeed, by their example, they opened the door for a future generation of Brazilian artists, such as Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticica, who would continue to search for genuine--and unapologetically contemporary--expressions of Brasilidade, gender, and sexuality in the coming decades.
(1.) Leslie Bary, "The Tropical Modernist as Literary Cannibal: Cultural Identity in Oswald De Andrade," Chasqui 20, no. 2 (1991): 12.
(2.) See Dawn Ades, "Nature Science and the Picturesque," in Art in Latin America: The Modern Era, 1820-1980, ed. Dawn Ades (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1989), 63-99, and Stephen Daniels, Fields of Vision: Landscape Imagery and National Identity in England and the United States (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1993).
(3.) See Darlene J. Sadlier, Brazil Imagined: 1500 to the Present (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 2008).
(4.) Stanton L. Catlin, "Traveller-Reporter Artists and the Empirical Tradition in Post-Independence Latin American Art," in Dawn Ades, ed., Art in Latin America: The Modern Era, 1820-1980, (New Haven: Yale Univ Press, 1989), 60.
(5.) It is customary in Brazilian art historical literature to refer to these artists by their first names: Tarsila and Anita; this is how they are widely known in Latin America. However, in keeping with English language scholarly practices, I refer to each artist by her last name throughout this essay.
(6.) Unless otherwise noted, biographical information on Malfatti is taken from Marta Rossetti Batista and Anita Malfatti, Anita Malfatti: no tempo e no espaco (Sao Paulo: Editora 34, 2006), and Luzia Portinari Greggio, Anita Malfatti: 120 Anos de Nascimento (Rio de Janeiro: Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, 2010), 17, 26-27, 52, 62, 82-83, 102-03.
(7.) Greggio, Anita Malfatti, 17.
(8.) Katherine Manthorne, "Art School as Contact Zone: Latin American Artists and their Teachers," in Deborah Cullen, ed., Nexus New York: Latin/American artists in the modern metropolis, (New York: Museo del Barrio, 2009), 49.
(9.) Boss was a member of the "Fifteen Group," former students of Robert Henri, including Edward Hopper, who had rebelled against traditional academic styles of the National Academy. See Susan S. Udell, Homer Boss: The Figure and the Land (Madison: Elvehjem Museum of Art, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, 1994).
(10.) Manthorne, "Art School as Contact Zone: Latin American Artists and their Teachers," 49.
(11.) Her godfather is reported to have exclaimed: "Nao foi para isto que paguei seus estudos!" (This isn't what I paid for your studies for). Greggio, Anita Malfatti, 26. All translations by the author unless otherwise noted.
(12.) The other artists showing works were Floyd O'Neale, Sara Friedman, and Abraham S. Baylinson. "Exposicao de Pintura Moderna--Anita Malfatti," Encyclopaedia Itau Cultural Visual Arts, http://www.itaucultural.org.br/aplicexternas/enciclopedia_ic/index. cfm?fuseaction = marcos_texto_ing&cd_verbete = 4978; last modified March 7, 2006, accessed Jan. 25, 2013.
(13.) Batista and Malfatti, Anita Malfatti: no tempo e no espaco, 65.
(14.) Ibid., 195.
(15.) Marguerite Itamar Harrison, "Between Exhibitions: Anita Malfatti and the Shifting Ground of Modernism," Ciber Letras: Journal of Literary Criticism and Culture 8 (2003), http://www.lehman.cuny.edu/ ciberletras/v08/harrison.html; accessed Jan. 25, 2013.
(16.) In his disparaging critique of the exhibition, the critic Jose Monteiro Lobato wrote: "... seduzida pelas teorias do que ela chama arte moderna, penetrou nos dominios de um impressionismo discutibilissimo, e pos todo seu talento a servico duma nova especie de caricatura. Sejamos sinceros: futurismo, cubismo, impressionismo e tutti quanti nao passam de outros ramos da arte caricatural." (... seduced by the theories of what she calls modern art, she penetrated into the domain of a highly debatable impressionism, and she put all of her talent to the service of a new kind of caricature. Let's be frank: futurism, cubism, impressionism, and all the others don't surpass the other branches of caricature art.) Jose Monteiro Lobato, "A Proposito da Exposicao Malfatti," O Estado de S. Paulo, Dec. 20, 1917, quoted in Greggio, Anita Malfatti, 26. Lobato's review was later republished under the title "Paranoia ou mistificacao." See Lobato, Urupes (Sao Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1918), and Lobato, Ideias de Jeca Tatu (Sao Paulo: Editoria Brasiliense, 1919).
(17.) Unless otherwise noted, biographical information on Tarsila do Amaral is from the artist's niece, art historian Aracy Amaral's Tarsila: sua obra e seu tempo (Sao Paulo: Ed. 34, EDUSP, 2003), and Carol Damian, "Tarsila do Amaral: Art and Environmental Concerns of a Brazilian Modernist," Woman's Art Journal, vol. 20, no. 1 (1999): 3-7.
(18.) Damian, "Tarsila do Amaral," 3.
(19.) "Ja estive no 'Grand Palais', no salao do Outono: olha, Anita, quase tudo tende para o cubismo ou futurismo.... Muita paisagem impressionista, outras dadaistas. Conheces, certamente, o Dadaismo. Eu, porem, vim a conhece-lo agora.... nao estou de acordo com o cubismo exagerado e o futurismo. O publico em geral ainda nao aceita aqui essas coisas. Estive muito tempo diante dos quadros mais extravagantes para ouvir os comentarios: 'C'est un mystere! Qu'est-ce que c'est cela?--L'artiste meme n'en sait rien . etc.'" Tarsila do Amaral, Letter to Anita Malfatti, Oct. 26, 1920, quoted in Amaral, Tarsila: sua obra e seu tempo, 48, 51.
(20.) For instance, critic Nestor Rangel Pestana, who also had attended her first exhibition at the Casa Mappin Store in 1914, wrote: "Quando a senhorita Anita Malfatti fez a sua primeira exposicao em S. Paulo tivemos oportunidade de louvar-lhe um belo futuro. O seus trabalhos nao eram, como em geral as producoes femininas, obra de 'mocas predadas' que se dedicam a pintura por passatempo ou para aplicala as almofadas de seda e aos vasos de barro. Havia neles um vigor de execucao e uma seriedade de aplicacao que denunciavam um temperamento verdadeiramente artistico." (When Miss Anita Malfatti did her first exhibition in Sao Paulo, we all had the opportunity to praise her for having a good future in front of her. Her works were not, as is common among feminine productions, the works of "wasted girls," who are dedicated to painting as a hobby or for the application of art to silk cushions and clay pots. Her works had in them a force of execution and a seriousness of application that betrayed a truly artistic temperament). Nestor Rangel Pestana, O Estado de S. Paulo, Nov. 29, 1917, quoted in Batista and Malfatti, Anita Malfatti: no tempo e no espaco, 259.
(21.) Ibid., 247.
(22.) "Estou voltando as coisas muito modernas, pois sao estas tais coisas que me alegram a alma." Anita Malfatti, Letter to Tarsila do Amaral, Sao Paulo, Sept. 14, 1921, quoted in Amaral, Tarsila: sua obra e seu tempo, 58-59.
(23.) Note: Mario de Andrade and Oswald de Andrade have the same surname but were not related. To avoid confusion, they are referred to throughout this essay by their first names.
(24.) Amaral, Tarsila: sua obra e seu tempo, 70.
(25.) Ibid., 72. Art historian Maria de Fatima Morethy Couto points out in her essay on the two artists that Amaral was initially more appreciated by the male members of the Grupo dos Cinco for her beauty and charm than her artistic talent. See Maria de Fatima Morethy Couto, "Caminhos e Descaminhos do Modernismo Brasileiro: O 'Confronto' Entre Anita e Tarsila," Esbocos 19, n. 27 (2012).
(26.) Damian, "Tarsila do Amaral," 4-5.
(27.) Alexandre Eulalio, A Aventura Brasileira de Blaise Cendrars (Sao Paulo: Edicoes Quiron Ltd., 1978), 72, quoted in Holliday T. Day and Hollister Sturges, Art of the Fantastic: Latin America, 1920-1987 (Indianapolis: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1987), 69.
(28.) Greggio, Anita Malfatti, 12.
(29.) For details, see the "Timeline" in Catalogue Raisonne Tarsila do Amaral, http://www.base7.com.br/tarsila/; accessed Jan. 30, 2013.
(30.) Batista and Malfatti, Anita Malfatti: no tempo e no espaco, 313.
(31.) "Que no fundo ainda se consideravam nos termos um tanta colegiais de 'Qual de nos duas e a melhor?' a cada qual magoandose com a preponderoncia daquela mais em evidencia. Nesse caso, nesse ano, Tarsila." Amaral, Tarsila: sua obra e seu tempo, 118.
(32.) "Ela me deu, no nosso primeiro encontro no hotel, a nocao de que em vez de uma amiga tenho uma rival." Tarsila do Amaral, Letter to her family, Sept. 29, 1923, quoted in ibid., 119.
(33.) "Voces ja viram Anita? ... Olhem, nao se esquecam de arranjar as coisas pra ficarem todos camaradas outra vez, nao gosto dessas briguinhas muito nao." Mario de Andrade, Letter to Tarsila do Amaral, April 21, 1926, quoted in ibid., 233.
(34.) "Agora coragem, aprompte-se ... . Estou classica! Como futurista morri e ja fui enterrada." Anita Malfatti, Letter to Mario de Andrade, 1924, quoted in ibid., 6.
(35.) "Timeline," Catalogue Raisonne Tarsila do Amaral, http://www. base7.com.br/tarsila/; accessed May 20, 2011.
(36.) Amaral, Tarsila: sua obra e seu tempo, 135.
(37.) Oswald de Andrade's "Pau-Brasil Poetry" manifesto refers to the mixed heritage of Brazil as well as to the contrast between its tropical landscape and industrial culture. Pau-Brasil, or Brazilwood, the major export crop during the colonial period, became a symbol for this movement.
(38.) Tarsila do Amaral, Letter to Joaquin Inojasa, Nov. 1925, quoted in Day and Sturges, Art of the Fantastic, 68.
(39.) Damian, "Tarsila do Amaral," 5-6.
(40.) The artworks that she brought back with her from Europe were held in customs for six months, delaying her ability to exhibit them right away. Batista and Malfatti, Anita Malfatti: no tempo e no espaco, 363.
(41.) Greggio, Anita Malfatti, 90.
(42.) The Diario Nacional's review specifically named several works in the exhibition, including No Balcao, Puritas, and Plein Air. The review in A Gazeta mentions Puritas and Ressurreicao de Lazaro. "A exposicao de pintura Anita Malfatti," Diario Nacional, Feb. 2, 1929, and A Gazeta, Sao Paulo, Feb. 2,1929, quoted in Renata Gomes Cardoso, "Anita Malfatti em Paris, 1923-1928," in Anais do XXVI Simposio Nacional de Historia (Sao Paulo: ANPUH, July 2011), 11 -13.
(43.) "... quadros muito mal feitos, de assuntos sem importancia e nada mais..." "A exposicao de pintura Anita Malfatti," Diario Nacional, February 2, 1929, quoted in Cardoso, "Anita Malfatti em Paris, 1923-1928," 11.
(44.) Sadlier, Brazil Imagined, 7.
(45.) Ibid., 133.
(46.) Cristina Ferreira-Pinto, Gender, Discourse, and Desire in Twentieth-Century Brazilian Women's Literature (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue Univ. Press, 2004), 10-11.
(47.) Damian, "Tarsila do Amaral," 4.
(48.) Meaning "cannibalism," this term was appropriated from the history of the Tupinamba Indians, who were known for devouring their European enemies in order to incorporate their strength into their own bodies.
(49.) Ades, "Modernism and the Search for Roots," in Ades, ed. Art in Latin America: The Modern Era, 1820-1980, 134. The 26 issues of the Revista de Antropofagia were published in two phases (or "denticoes") during 1928-29.
(50.) The financial setback would eventually result in her being forced to mortgage her farm at Santa Teresa do Alto. "Timeline," Catalogue Raisonne Tarsila do Amaral, http://www.base7.com.br/tarsila/ accessed May 20, 2011,
(51.) According to Aracy Amaral: "Em 1929-30 o artista revelou-se sobretudo subjetivamente relacionada com a paisagem." (In 1929-30 the artist revealed herself to be above all subjectively related with the landscape.) Aracy Amaral, "O Surreal em Tarsila" Mirante das Artes Sao Paulo, n. 3 (1967): 24.
(52.) Aracy Amaral, "Stages in the Formation of Brazil's Cultural Profile," trans. Kim Mrazek Hastings, The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 21 (1995): 22.
(53.) For instance, in Nov. 1932, Lasar Segall and Gregori Warchavchik established the Sociedade Pro-Arte Moderna (SPAM) to support modern art in Brazil. The very next day Flavio de Carvalho and Di Cavalcanti founded the Clube dos Artistas Modernos (CAM) to oppose SPAM's purported elitism. In addition to avant-garde exhibitions that showcased the artwork of children and the mentally handicapped, CAM held concerts, debates, and conferences, and sponsored talks on proletarian art. Malfatti and Amaral participated in both groups and showed in their exhibitions. Ades, "Modernism and the Search for Roots," 136; and Carlos Alberto Cerqueira Lemos, Jose Roberto Teixeira Leite, and Pedro Manuel Gismonti, The Art of Brazil (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), 230.
(54.) Modernidade: art brasilien du 20e siecle, Musee d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, Dec. 10, 1987-Feb. 14, 1988, 86, quoted in Ades, "Modernism and the Search for Roots," 136.
(55.) Lemos, Leite, and Gismonti, The Art of Brazil, 235, 237.
(56.) Greggio, Anita Malfatti, 90.
(57.) Sadlier, Brazil Imagined, 149. Sadlier quotes social critic Afonso Arinos's 1917 text "A unidade da patria," saying, "[I]t is not the cultured class that keeps Brazil united, but rather the common people."
(58.) Ibid., 150.
(59.) M ary Lombardi, " The Frontier in Brazilian H istory: An Historiographical Essay," The Pacific Historical Review 44, no. 4 (1975): 456.
(60.) Freye published this theory in 1933. See Sadlier, Brazil Imagined, 191.
(61.) Karen Goldman, "Rural and Urban Brazil in Cinema Novo and Beyond," in Catherine Fowler and Gillian H elfield, eds., Representing the Rural: Space, Place, and Identity in Films About the Land, (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 2006), 154.
(62.) In 1945, after the deposition of Getulio Vargas, she held a solo show in Sao Paulo at the Instituto dos Arquitetos, comprising portraits, regional landscapes, and flowers. See Batista and Malfatti, Anita Malfatti: no tempo e no espaco, 438, 440, 444.
(63.) Ibid., 425.
(64.) Ibid., 428.
(65.) "Depois, na segunda sala, e uma Anita acomodada e serena diante de um nacional meigo que ela interpreta num continuo movimento passado. Pasmadas sao suas casas adormecidas de Itanhaem e suas criancas ao redor do coreto ou de beira de estrada. E uma especie de Brasil de recorte de janela de trem, esse que sente a pintora. Um Brasil com alguns tracos a um tempo ingenuos e desesperados de ex-votos. [... ] Parece-me que Anita Malfatti conseguiu apreender esse clima brasileiro de eterna espera que o coloca liricamente entre outros paises que nao tem mais tempo de sonhar. E uma espera sem desespero .... " Helen, "Anita Malfatti de ontem e de hoje," Folha da Manha, June 5, 1949, quoted in ibid., 450.
(66.) Damian, "Tarsila do Amaral," 7.
(67.) Flavio de Carvalho, O Estado de S. Paulo, Dec. 31, 1950, quoted in ibid.
Gillian Sneed is a Ph.D. student in Art History at the City University of New York, Graduate Center.
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|Publication:||Woman's Art Journal|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2013|
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