Tarsila do Amaral changed the Brazilian art world by tapping into her endless sense of modernist creativity. Do Amaral came from a life of affluence as the daughter of plantation owners in Sao Paulo. Brazilian society deterred girls from pursuing an education, but her parents encouraged her artistic ambitions. Her family frequently visited Spain and France, where the budding artist’s work caught the public’s eye. She even studied with renowned artist Pedro Alexandrino Borges in her hometown but moved on. She cited Brazilian art’s traditionalism as her reason for moving to Paris.
However, her time in Paris was fraught with strife as well. Do Amaral recalled her art education in the City of Lights as “military service” after learning the fundamentals of Cubism. Her European art tutelage did leave an impression as she brought her new artistic language to her hometown. Upon her return, she was embraced by fellow Brazilian modernists like Anita Malfatti and Oswald de Andrade, forming the Grupo dos Cinco. Her tenure with the group produced her most well-known works, including A Negra and Sao Paulo.
Do Amaral became a key figure in Latin American art as her mix of surrealism, Cubism, and Brazilian culture birthed the Antropofagia movement. Her colorful and bright contributions reached their apex with her most celebrated work, Abaporu. Her signature piece and other works led a series of solo exhibitions throughout Brazil. She even participated in group shows in New York City and Paris. Unfortunately, this period was short-lived as her marriage to writer Oswald de Andrade and family wealth collapsed following the 1929 Stock Market Crash. She spent a few years working for a museum and art journal.
Lifestyle changes influenced the renowned modernist’s artwork as her later pieces took on a political tone. During this period, she also traveled to Russia to participate in art exhibitions where she witnessed the poverty and plight of the citizens. Seeing this led Amaral to create works like Workers (Operarios) and Segundo Class upon returning to Brazil.
In her later years, do Amaral became involved in Brazilian politics through the São Paulo Constitutional Revolt. She delved more into art journalism by writing a weekly arts and culture column for the Diario de Sao Paulo until 1952. She settled in her hometown in 1938, where she continued painting for years until her death on January 17, 1973.
Tarsila do Amaral took her observations of European movements and revolutionized the Brazilian art world. Her modernist take cemented her as the Godmother of Brazilian Modernism. Her works are still renowned and appreciated by the masses in and outside her home country. I will say, “Ms. Do Amaral, we celebrate and acknowledge your ability to push art forward.”
I want to be the painter of my country.
Tarsila do Amaral