fbpx
Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Painting of the Week: Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporú

Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporú
Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporú, 1928, © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos, https://tarsiladoamaral.com.br

Painting of the Week

Painting of the Week: Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporú

Abaporú: a painting that was a birthday gift from a wife to a husband, from Tarsila do Amaral to Oswaldo de Andrade. This work was a symbol of the loving and intellectual connection between two artists, and it also became a powerful symbol of modern Brazilian art that merged and digested local and European styles and themes in an act of (re)creation.

It was a painting that must have enticed strong feelings at the time, when Brazil wanted to be perceived as a modern and rich country. Contrary to this aspiration, Abaporú showed a portrait of a bare, sexless, ageless, gigantic and distorted creature – perhaps even a monster – sitting under the sun next to a cactus.

 Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporú,1928, © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos, https://tarsiladoamaral.com.br; Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporú

Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporú, 1928, © Tarsila do Amaral. Image source: https://tarsiladoamaral.com.br

Abaporú, the title of the work, means in Tupi-Guarani – the language of a local native tribe – cannibal, “a person who eats other people”.  The deformed figure doesn’t resemble anything that exists in reality: It is painted with a small head and large hands and feet, and a disproportionate body next to the schematic sun and cactus. This gentle giant has eyes, but no mouth and ears. It is naked, in a position similar to Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker, its one hand laid on its head, slightly twisted towards the viewer, while the disproportionately larger body is turned to the side, towards the sun and the cactus on the right side of the composition.

According to Oswald de Andrade, the painting shows a human being in a state of nature, that of the cannibal. Tarsila, on the other hand, said that the monstrous being is a product of her imagination inspired by the stories told to her by the black nannies at the plantation where she grew up.

Abaporú became an important symbol of the artistic and cultural movement called movimento de antropofagia, started by Oswald de Andrade’s Canninbalist Manifesto in 1928. In that manifesto, Andrade proclaimed what should be the new principles followed by Brazilian artists. He wished that any new art (including literature and visual art) should feed on the different influences, native and European. He wanted to invite Brazilians to cannibalize: to swallow and digest foreign inspirations without any hesitation and with total dedication to the process of the modern cultural creation in the new Brazil. Andrade accepted the existence of different cultures and applauded the natural process of cross-cultural inspiration and appropriation.

Abaporú was created in 1928,  two years before the military coup d’état of Getúlio Vargas, in the last moments of the Old Republic which transformed the country from a society and economy based on slavery and agriculture to a more urban, industrial and crisis-prone country. The naked body of a strange creature at the center of the painting, close to nature rather than to culture or to other beings, was a strong, brave and unapologetic declaration of the essence of vitality in Brazilian life, according to Tarsila do Amaral.

The dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas rejected this avant-garde and shocking interpretation of what it means to be Brazilian and instead supported the traditionalist, nationalist and conservative artists. In the sixties, when another military dictatorship took power in Brazil, Abaporú, the anthropophagic movement and Tarsila herself became idols of the new artistic movement– tropicalia. The leaders of this countercultural movement – such as Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa and Helio Oiticica – often evoked Tarsila and her art as their inspiration.

When we look at Abaporú now, we see the most expensive work of Brazilian art, bought in 1995 at Christie’s auction house  for 1.4 million USD by Eduardo Costantini, the Argentinian art collector and creator of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericana in Buenos Aires. We also see one of the most important paintings in Latin American art, depicting and resolving the fundamental dilemma in many Latin American cultures – how to come to terms with our hybrid and mixed nature and origin.


Learn more:

  

Ex political science researcher at the Jagiellonian University. Lover and promoter of Latin American art and design (via blog www.thebananas.pl). In spare time president of the board of FOH Foundation, non profit, pro publico bono organization whose mission is to further safety and professional standards in the entertainment productions industry.

 

Comments

More in Painting of the Week

  • Art State of Mind

    Bringing Up Baby – The Art of Parenting Through The Ages

    By

    Childcare can take so many forms. Kids throughout history have been raised by gay dads, lesbian moms, whole villages, singles, and adoptive parents. So many families are drawn together by love not blood, by necessity not nature, so let’s take a tour of parenting practices–some traditional...

  • Ancient Egypt

    Painting of the Week: Judgement Scene from Book of the Dead of Hunefer

    By

    Death continues to be one of the greatest fears of human society. Since the dawn of recorded history through the centuries of plague, pestilence, and meeting our own modern global pandemic, death has always been a worry. It marks the end of life and forces cosmic...

  • Catherine the Great portraits. . Fyodor Rokotov, Portrait of Empress Catherine the Great, 1763, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia. Catherine the Great portraits. . Fyodor Rokotov, Portrait of Empress Catherine the Great, 1763, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

    dailyart

    Portraits of Catherine the Great, Empress of all the Russias

    By

    Catherine the Great (1729-1796) ruled almost the entire second half of the 18th century. Her reign was very successful on the world arena and gave solutions to a number of political problems. Take a look at these famous portraits of Catherine the Great, the woman who...

  • Artists' Stories

    Four Female Court Painters You Did Not Know

    By

    Throughout history, art has always played an important role in royal propaganda across Europe. Royal families were in a race to employ the best painters of their time. Court painter positions were generally filled by male artists; however, there were many female painters whose talents were...

  • bust of queen Nefertiti bust of queen Nefertiti

    Ancient Egypt

    Egypt and Berlin’s Icon: The Bust of Queen Nefertiti

    By

    The bust of Queen Nefertiti housed in Berlin’s Neues Museum is one of Ancient Egypt’s most famous works of art. A prime example of ancient artistry, this icon has been called “the most beautiful woman in the world”. Hypnotizing audiences since it went on display in...

To Top