All posts tagged: modernism

Revolutionary in Rio

A young girl’s long hair is blown by the wind, while she stares ahead at a small collection of trees. Three heads – human or animal we are not sure — protrude from wellington boots on the pavement. It is hard to describe what it happening in the paintings of Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973), even though the colours and the shapes are vivid. Upon first glance, some of these works can resemble France’s Henri Rousseau, the self-taught artist who captured now-famous jungle scenes. In others, she is more like the Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte. But in all her work, she is overwhelmingly Brazilian – with her bold use of colour and indigenous subject matter. Her legacy can be seen in the vivid work of contemporary Brazilian painters like Beatriz Milhazes. Indeed, Tarsila (as she is known in Brazil) has been described as the Brazilian painter who best achieved a nationalistic modern style in her country. She is also credited with having revolutionised Brazilian art. The much-loved artist is one of a number of female Brazilian …

Constructing modernity

Radical Uruguayan artist Joaquin Torres-Garcia (1874–1949) epitomised individuality in the arts. A key figure in Latin American modernism, his influence nonetheless extended much further than the continent of his birth. A number of North American artists, including Louise Bourgeois and Barnett Newman, felt his idiosyncratic influence. The artist was born in Montevideo. He left for Barcelona aged 17, where he trained as an artist. In the Catalan capital, he became active in the local artistic movement known as Noucentisme, or “Nineteen-hundreds Style.” The artists and intellectuals that worked within this movement were reacting against what they considered the aesthetic excesses of Modernisme. Noucentista art was characterized by a return to order. Its artists set out to embody the timeless values of the Mediterranean through their art, as well as revive the classical past. In the decorative arts, the values of Noucentisme were seen in an emphasis on traditional hand-craftsmanship. As one of the leading members of Noucentisme, Torres-Garcia became a well-known painter during his years in Barcelona. His first major commission was for a series …

A vibrant city in motion: Horacio Coppola’s Buenos Aires

Argentine Modernism is under the spotlight in a new retrospective at New York’s MoMa focusing on the works of Horacio Coppola and Grete Stern. Coppola, an Argentine of Italian descent, and Stern, a German Jew, met at the Bauhaus, the experimental German art school, in the 1930s. With the rise of the Nazi regime and the subsequent closure of the Bauhaus, they moved to Buenos Aires in 1936, via London, where they got married. With the knowledge and training they had received in Germany, they soon established themselves as pioneers of Modernism in Argentina, combining a sharp eye for abstraction and design with local themes and subject matters. One obvious approach to examining their work has been to consider the axis of influence between Germany and Argentina. However, another interesting and novel comparison is between Buenos Aires and Paris, as the Argentine capital has often been considered ‘the Paris of South America’. In a post-colonial context, such a claim is deceptive. It implies that Buenos Aires is simply an imitation of the Parisian capital, with …

Double take

The pioneering Argentine photographer and filmmaker Horacio Coppola (1906-2012) was a key Modernist figure. He was one of ten siblings born to Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires at a time when photography was only an emerging art form. He travelled to Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, where his early experiments with photography began to take on a Surrealist edge. Coppola is the subject of a new retrospective at New York’s MOMA, alongside his wife German-born Grete Stern, also an artist. Coppola enjoyed walking the streets of London, waiting for moments of Surrealist uncanniness to appear. In this photo, taken in London in 1934, clothes and shoes for sale outside a shop swing in the wind, giving the strange sensation that they are being worn. In another photo in the exhibition, also taken in London in 1934, he photographed a display of various antiques at a flea market in the city, including the reflections of passers-by in the mirrors. Viewed more closely, the reflection of a sculptural bust can be seen in the mirror too, …

Revolutionary in Brazil

Tarsila and Modern Women in Rio at the Museu de Arte do Rio pays tribute to a number of female Brazilian artists, who worked between the end of the 19th century and the end of the Second World War. The women featured were all selected for the revolutionary work they did, albeit in very different areas of creative production. Tarsila do Amaral (1886–1973), known simply as Tarsila, is the central figure of the exhibition. Considered to be one of the leading Latin American modernist artists, she was a member of the notorious Grupo dos Cinco (Group of Five), perhaps the biggest influence on modern art in Brazil. She is also credited with having inspired Oswald de Andrade’s famous essay Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibal Manifesto), a key Brazilian cultural text which argued that the country’s history of of “cannibalizing” other cultures is its greatest strength. Tarsila and Modern Women in Rio is on at the Museu de Arte do Rio until 20th September 2015. Photo: Tarsila do Amaral, O Lago (The Lake) (1928). Courtesy of Museu de Arte do Rio.