Tarsila do Amaral

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The art world has always been heavily male dominated, very few female names emerged as forces to be reckoned with and none were ever as powerful as Tarsila do Amaral or simply Tarsila. Well regarded as one of the leading Latin American modernist artists, Tarsila took Brazil’s art scene into a complete different and wondrous direction. She was also a member of the Group of Five (Grupo dos Cinco), which was basically a group of five brilliant Brazilian artists who formed the foundation of the modern art movement in Brazil.

Apart from being a great painter, Tarsila was also regarded as a woman well ahead of her time; she lived life on her own terms and was fiercely independent. Unlike most other maestros, Tarsila was born into a life of privilege in Sao Paolo, Brazil to a wealthy farmer. From an early age her parents encouraged Tarsila to pursue her love of art which only reinstated her independence and longing for art. Tarsila moved from Spain to France with her family to study art, and started copying images from an early age. Despite the constant moving both during her childhood and her years as a painter, Tarsila remained deeply connected to her native Brazil. Her love for her Brazilian heritage is evident in some of her work which showcases rich, dark colors and beautiful landscapes depicting the beauty of Brazil. From her famous painting Abaporu, to the Egg to An Angler, all contain a strong element of Brazil. In many ways Brazil was her muse.

Tarsila do Amaral’s marvellous creation – painting her friend’s studio in vivid colors borne from her childhood memories of a semi nude woman – called ‘ A Negra’, formed the very foundation of the new modernistic art movement in Brazil. The creation depicted Tarsila’s stance on black slaves in Brazil which was also a sacred childhood memory for her. Through her paintings Tarsila was able to command and tell her stories and views. Inspired by the indigenous culture and landscapes her paintings have a unique primitive touch to them. The rich ground strokes set against which were often bright backgrounds became synonymous with her individualistic style. In her paintings there is color yet there is subtleness at the same time. Apart from Brazil and France Tarsila’s love for art also took her to Russia, Tarsila was touched by a painting she saw there and a lot of her work post the 1930s reflected a keen interest in social change especially in relation to poverty and class system.

Being the independent strong willed woman that she was, Tarsila’s private life often took a back seat to her work. After three failed marriages, Tarsila resigned to the concept of marriage referring to it as boring and instead focused on collaborating and expanding her art portfolio including illustrations for a poetry book for a dear friend. Tarsila was a strong crusader of promoting Brazilian culture via art. She urged budding young artists towards exploring modern artistic means deeply imbedded in Brazil which would serve as an opportunity through which other cultures could learn more about Brazil and its richness. No other artist can boast of having a crater in Mercury named after them (Amaral Crater in Mercury).  After her death Tarsila do Amaral left behind more than 230 paintings, illustrations and drawings which are her legacy and deeply contested for by many art lovers worldwide.

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