Anita Malfatti

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Anita Malfatti was a renowned and widely celebrated Brazilian painter, designer, draftswoman and engraver. She is hailed and acclaimed as the first Brazilian artist to introduce European and American modernism in Brazil.

Anita Malfatti was born as Ana Catarina Malfatti on December 2, 1889 in Sao Paula to a family of immigrants. Her father, Samuel Malfatti, worked as a civil engineer while her mother, Elizabeth Malfatti, who was her greatest source of inspiration and her primary teacher, was a painter and designer, and an incredibly cultured, elegant and multi-lingual woman. It was Elizabeth who guided Anita through the basic steps of painting and design, and inspired her passion and talents by closely guiding her education and training. Tragically, as talented as Anita was her early training and education as a painter was made difficult by the congenital defect in her right arm, which had been operated three times but could not be made mobile. Hence, a right-handed Anita was forced to use her left arm for the rest of her life.

In 1910, Anita travelled to Berlin in hopes of joining the Royal Academy of fine arts, however, since the academic term had already begun she had to wait a year for getting her acceptance at the Academy. Meanwhile, she began taking private lessons at the Studio of renowned artist, Fritz Burger-Muhlfeld, and it was here that she encountered various innovative and passionate artists, and began experimenting in free painting. She also collaborated with Lovis Corinth and Bischoff-Culm in metal recording. In 1914, she decided to return to Brazil however, during her journey she stopped at Paris, and here she was overtaken by the delight and promise of Post-Impressionist paintings and she began frequenting the social circles of renowned and notable French Impressionists. She enrolled herself in the Academie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture to perfect her skill and polish her talents.

In 1915, Anita travelled to the US, where she continued her artistic educated at the Independence School of Art in New York, under the extremely beneficial tutelage of Homer Boss, who encouraged her freedom of expression and influenced her art to break free of all limitations. Some of her brilliant and widely acclaimed paintings from that time include The Yellow Man, The Woman’s Hair and The Japanese. Upon her return to Brazil, in December 1917, Malfatti organised a high-profile and highly controversial exhibition that showcased 53 of her works that included metal engravings, paintings, drawing and watercolors. The exhibition turned out to be extremely scandalous and caused quite a stir in the close-knit and conventional art community of Brazil, however, at the same time this exhibition marked the entry of Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism, Futurism and other European artistic movements that led to revolutionizing arts in Brazil.

Malfatti’s work led to encourage and inspire other modernists in Brazil, and in 1922, she collaborated with Di Cavalcanti, Oswald de Andrade, Guilherme de Almeida, Ribeiro Couto, Brecheret, Mario de Andrade and John Graz among other notable names, to organize the week of modern art exhibited at the Municipal Theatre of São Paulo. The event encouraged eliminating all limitations and barriers to freedom of expression not only in visual arts, but also in dance, music, literature and architecture. In 1923, upon receiving a scholarship from the pensioned art of the State of São Paulo, Malfatti travelled to Paris and remained there for the next five years, taking several courses on designing.

In 1933, Malfatti was awarded the silver medal at the Salon Paulista de Bellas Artes, São Paulo. This was a period of immense commercial success and critical acclaim for Anita Malfatti, her work began attracting patrons and fans, and in 1949, the Museum of art of São Paulo organized an exhibition to showcase her work. In 1951 and 1963, she participated in the Benial de São Paulo. She was a part of the 1957 travelling exhibition of modern art which toured the cities of Rosario, Buenos Aires, Santiago and Lima. Her paintings are showcased in all the leading Brazilian museums including, de Arte de São Paulo, the Nation Museum of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro and the Museum of contemporary art at the University of São Paulo.

Anita Malfatti Paintings

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