Candido Portinari

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Brazil’s biggest export to the art world, Candido Portinari, was a well renowned painter and graphic artist. He singlehandedly raised the neo-realism style of painting and introduced the concept of murals with a unique style of expression elements which resulted in Portinari’s individual style. Portinari’s unusual upbringing played a large part in the artist’s exclusive style; it was a combination of being raised in two rich dynamic heritages and being exposed to their vibrant cultures. Portinari’s diverse heritage was an inspiration to many of his paintings. His murals have a reputation for being endless and their range is simply marvellous. Just one look at the Hispanic Reading Room in the Library of Congress in Washington DC shows how vast his range and his expertise was in murals. Portinaris made murals look effortless.

Candido Portinari was born on December 29, 1903 in Brazil to Italian immigrants, and was brought up in a poor environment but one thing it was rich in and that was culture. Raised in strong Brazilian and Italian voices, Portinari always defined himself as a proud Brazilian with strong Italian roots. Despite coming from a poor family, Portinari received very basic formal education but developed an earnest learning for art when he volunteered to help a local painter. By the time he was 15, Portinari realized being an artist was exactly what he wanted to be and disciplined himself to get every insight into the art world. Being the perfectionist that he was Portinari was always constantly learning art well into his later years. He was of the opinion that art is ever evolving and a skill that one can never master till the end. It will always be a constant learning cycle.

Portinari’s art is filled with depictions of everyday life in Brazil; streets, vendors, fish markets, beaches, natives. He was a firm believer in portraying reality through art; his paintings were a picture of Brazil – its people and its land. One of Portrinari’s early works was a canvas painting Café. Instead of a typical image of a Café, the painting actually features coffee pickers hard at work. The soil is highlighted in a deep reddish brown shade and the centre of the attention is the coffee picker. The painting is a reflection of a typical sunny day in Brazil. Another marvelous piece of Portinari’s craft can be found at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the Discovery of the Land. Painted in black and white with strong bold brown colors – to depict the slaves, the main feature of the painting is its massive ship and the slaves on board rearing it. The brown color signifies the slaves, it’s the only feature in the painting which is colored, and the rest of it is all black and white. The painting is there to remind the viewer of the sacrifices made by slaves in that era and their vital role is the discovery of the new land. Similarly Portinari’s mural War and Peace also displays the plight of the Hispanic Americans and the intercultural conflicts they face in the new land. Growing up in Brazil was a defining moment for Portinari, his work is loaded with images of rural and urban Brazil along with the issues poor Brazilians faced. As in his work there is a deep affinity towards the working class as Candido Portinari came from the same environment as well.

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