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Tarsila Do Amaral’s Exhibit Brings Brazilian Modern Art to the MoMA

Monday, March 5

It isn't often that we have a chance to view the work of a lesser-known artist whose work is considered to have had a revolutionary impact on its artistic movement.  That opportunity has arisen with an exhibition of the work of Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973). Though well known and celebrated in her native country of Brazil, here in America, not many have heard of her. With the exhibition of her work at MoMA, now through June 3, Americans can experience her groundbreaking Modern paintings.

Born in 1886, Tarsila seemed destined for a conventional life until her marriage fell apart, and she began exploring her artistic inclinations. From there, she began traveling, meeting and studying with many prominent artists of the time including Andre Lhote, Albert Gleizes, and Fernand Leger. She became exposed to blossoming artistic movements like Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism.

Drawing on her travels and experiences, Tarsila’s painting began to take a more modern flavor, featuring abstract designs, bold colors, and geometric shapes. She incorporated themes of Sao Paulo and Paris, Sao Paulo being her home and Paris being the place where she studied art. Her paintings are largely of people and tropical scenes. Later in life, Tarsila’s travels would expose her to plight and poverty, specifically in the Soviet Union. Her position as an activist is reflected in her paintings, into which she incorporated political messages.

The exhibition at MoMA is the eighth exhibit the museum is hosting in their celebration of Latin American artists. It features over 100 of her works including paintings, drawings, sketchbooks, photographs and historical documents. The show includes brightly colored city and country-scapes, perversely proportioned nudes and cerebral abstracts.

 Some notable works include “A Negra”, a nude of a woman of seemingly Afro-Brazilian descent sitting cross-legged in front of a subdued yet colorful background. Also on display is “Abaporu”, an abstract that is arguably Tarsila’s most important work. It features an egg-shaped disc, in an oddly intellectual pose, set against a sky blue background. The painting was gifted to Tarsila’s second husband,  the poet Oswaldo de Andrade. It was said that the piece of art served as inspiration for his “Manifesto Antropófago”.

Tarsila is a painter whose works are considered by many to have been revolutionary to the world of art. Her exhibit will serve as a rare opportunity for Americans to become better acquainted with her daring creations. Be sure to check out the art of this bold modernist, now through June 3.