Arthur Bispo do Rosário was born in 1909 in Japaratuba, a city in Brazil’s Northeast region, early on in his life, he started to study in the Naval School, later moving to Rio de Janeiro to join the Navy. During the eight years he spent as a sailor, he traveled to many places that became subjects he embroidered years later on his textiles.
After leaving the Navy, he took jobs like bus washer, bodyguard, and domestic worker to make ends meet. In 1938, Bispo do Rosário had a psychotic break in which he went to church and stated that he had received a mission from Heaven to recreate the Universe for doomsday. He was then sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment and later on was admitted to the asylum Colônia Juliano Moreira, where he lived until he died in 1989.
Creating His World
Without any formal art training, Bispo do Rosário created a rich body of work of textiles, sculptures, assemblages, and collages. He used to say that he created objects with “all the things in the world” to show to the Heavens. He produced the objects mainly with what he could get his hand on; scraps of metal, plastic, and paper. Old clothes or the inmates’ uniforms were torn and shredded so he could make threads of it to embroider the pieces.
Of all his work, the textiles are the most special and display beautiful embroideries representing parts of his life and what was on his mind at the time. The Manto da apresentação is a cape created for the day Bispo do Rosário “would introduce himself to Jesus” and is exquisitely embroidered with colorful figures of ordinary objects and words.
Other relevant textiles are the Estandartes or banners where he embroidered stories of his past and recreated places where he had been.