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MoMA Salutes the Pioneering Work of Brazilian Modernist Tarsila do Amaral

  • Tarsila do Amaral. Study for Composition (Lonely figure) III [Estudo de Composição (Figura só) III], 1930
  • Urutu Viper (Urutu)
  • Setting Sun (Sol poente), 1929
  • A Cuca, 1924
February 8, 2018
A philosophy graduate interested in theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

One of the greatest Brazilian artists of the 20th century, Tarsila do Amaral created a body of work that remains a compelling testimony of a pivotal chapter in Latin American modernism.

An artist who significantly contributed to the birth of modern art in Brazil, she is described as a painter who best achieved country’s aspirations for nationalistic expression in a modern style.

Celebrating the compelling oeuvre of this remarkable artist, the Museum of Modern Art will present the first major U.S. museum exhibition of her work. Titled Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil, the exhibition will examine do Amaral’s production from the 1920s through approximately 130 works, including paintings, drawings, sketchbooks, and photographs drawn from collections across the United States, Latin America, and Europe.

Abaporu, 1928, Carnival in Madureira (Carnaval em Madureira)
Left: Tarsila do Amaral – Abaporu, 1928. Oil on canvas. 33 7/16 x 28 3/4 in. (85 x 73 cm). Collection MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires. © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos / Right: Tarsila do Amaral – Carnival in Madureira (Carnaval em Madureira), Oil on canvas. 29 15/16 x 25 in. (76 x 63.5 cm). Acervo da Fundação José e Paulina Nemirovsky, em comodato com a Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos

The Practice of Tarsila do Amaral

The work of Tarsila do Amaral is a key influence on Brazil’s modernist boom, at the same time laying foundations for the radical work of the abstract and Neo-Concertist artists who defined Brazilian art in the 1960s.

Early in her career, do Amaral developed her signature painterly style, consisted of synthetic lines, sensuous volumes and a rich color palette and inspired by the colors of Brazilian landscape. Through her work, she merged modernism with the brilliant energy and culture of her homeland.

Do Amaral’s seminal painting Abaporu from 1928 inspired the Anthropophagous Manifesto written by her husband, the modernist poet Oswald de Andrade, that revolved around the questions of national integrity, anti-colonialism, art-making, and primitivism, coalesced under the banner term cannibalism or anthropophagy. This essay influenced a generation of artists who sought to create distinctively Brazilian art free from outside influences.

Anthropophagy (Antropofagia), 1929
Tarsila do Amaral – Anthropophagy (Antropofagia), 1929. Oil on canvas. 49 5/8 x 55 15/16 in. (126 x 142 cm). Acervo da Fundação Jose e Paulina Nemirovsky, em comodato com a Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos.

Highlights of the Show

Through chronological display and a thematic approach, the show will trace do Amaral’s entire practice, ranging from early Parisian works and modernist paintings created upon her return to Brazil to large-scale, socially driven pieces of the early 1930s.

The highlight of the show will be the reunion of three milestone works The Black Woman, from 1923, Abaporu from 1928 and Anthropophagy from 1929, last joined together in North America in 1993.

Other highlights include the drawing Study for Composition (Lonely figure III) from 1930 alongside the painting Lonely Figure created the same year, works that have marked the most prolific decade of her practice.

Postcard (Cartão-postal), 1929, Oswald de Andrade (Brazilian, 1890–1954) with drawing by Tarsila do Amaral.
Left: Tarsila do Amaral – Postcard (Cartão-postal), 1929. Oil on canvas. 50 3/16 x 56 1/8 in. (127.5 x 142.5 cm). Private collection, Rio de Janeiro. © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos / Right: Oswald de Andrade (Brazilian, 1890–1954) with drawing by Tarsila do Amaral. “Manifesto antropófago” (Manifesto of Anthropophagy), in Revista de Antropofagia 1, no. 1 (May 1928):3. The Museum of Modern Art Library. Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Paulo Herkenhoff. Photo by John Wronn

Tarsila do Amaral Exhibition at MoMA

The exhibition Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil will be on view at The Museum of Modern Art in New York from February 11th through June 3rd, 2018.

It will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalog, presenting Do Amaral’s paintings, drawings, letters and photographs and offering a complete overview of this critical period in her career through essays by Luis Pérez-Oramas and Stephanie D’Alessandro, an illustrated documentary section, a translation of critical texts, a chronology, and extensive bibliography.

The exhibition is organized by The Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, by Luis Pérez-Oramas, former Estrellita Brodsky Curator of Latin American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and Stephanie D’Alessandro, former Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of International Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago; with Karen Grimson, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Museum of Modern Art, and Katja Dominique Rivera, Research Associate, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Art Institute of Chicago.

Featured images: Tarsila do Amaral – Study for Composition (Lonely figure) III [Estudo de Composição (Figura só) III], 1930. Ink on paper. 8 11/16 x 13 in. (22 x 33 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Max Perlingeiro through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund. © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos; Urutu Viper (Urutu). Oil on canvas. 23 5/8 x 28 3/8 in. (60 x 72 cm). Coleção Gilberto Chateaubriand, Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro. © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos; Setting Sun (Sol poente), 1929. Oil on canvas. 21 1/4 x 25 9/16 in. (54 x 65 cm). Private collection, Rio de Janeiro. © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos; A Cuca, 1924. Oil on canvas. 23 13/16 × 28 9/16 in. (60.5 × 72.5 cm). Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris, France FNAC 9459. Photography © Cnap / Ville de Grenoble / Musée de Grenoble – J.L. Lacroix. © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos; All images courtesy of MoMA.