Press Release  August 7, 2017

Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil

Tarsila do Amaral (1886–1937) was a central figure in the development of Brazil’s modern art, and her influence reverberates throughout 20th- and 21st-century art. Although relatively little-known outside Latin America, her paintings and drawings reflect her ambitions to synthesize the currents of avant-garde art and create an original modern art for her home country. Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil, the first exhibition in North America devoted to the artist, focuses on her work in the 1920s, when she traveled between São Paulo and Paris, participating in the creative and social lives of both cities and forging her own unique artistic style.

The exhibition begins in Paris with what Tarsila, as she is affectionately known in her home country, called her “military service in Cubism.” Her rich involvement with European modernism included associations with artists Fernand Léger and Constantin Brancusi, dealer Ambroise Vollard, and poet Blaise Cendrars. The presentation follows her trips to Rio de Janeiro and the colonial towns of Minas Gerais and charts her expanding and vital role in Brazil’s emerging modern art scene and with its community of artists and writers, including poets Oswald de Andrade and Mário de Andrade. It was during this period that Tarsila began combining the visual language of modernism with the subjects and palette of her homeland to produce a fresh and uniquely Brazilian modern art. The exhibition celebrates Tarsila’s most daring works and her role in the founding of Antropofagía—an art movement that promoted the idea of devouring, digesting, and transforming European and other artistic influences in order to make something entirely new. Tarsila’s contributions include the landmark 1928 canvas Abaporu, which was the inspiration for the Anthropophagous Manifesto and came to serve as an emblem for the movement.

Featuring over 120 paintings, drawings, and historical documents related to the artist, Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil is a rare opportunity to experience the artist’s work, which is held mostly in Brazilian collections.


Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Major support is generously provided by the Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation.

Additional funding is contributed by the Morton International Exhibition Fund, Robert J. Buford, Noelle C. Brock, Constance and David Coolidge, Margot Levin Schiff and the Harold Schiff Foundation, the Jack and Peggy Crowe Fund, and Erika Erich.

Annual support for Art Institute exhibitions is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: Neil Bluhm and the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation; Jay Franke and David Herro; Kenneth Griffin; Caryn and King Harris, The Harris Family Foundation; Liz and Eric Lefkofsky; Robert M. and Diane v.S. Levy; Ann and Samuel M. Mencoff; Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal; Thomas and Margot Pritzker; Anne and Chris Reyes; Betsy Bergman Rosenfield and Andrew M. Rosenfield; Cari and Michael J. Sacks; and the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation.

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