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Culture, Art and Architecture

Lasar Segall, Candido Portinari, Tarsila, Roberto Burle Marx, Lucio Costa

Portuguese religious influences dominated colonial art. In the 19th and 20th centuries, artistic movements in Europe provided inspiration for Brazilian artists. For example, the Week of Modern Art, an international arts festival in Sao Paulo in 1922, introduced cubist ideas, which focused on abstract forms rather than lifelike representation of objects. Important modern artists Anita Malfatti and Tarsila do Amaral were both early pioneers in Brazilian modern art. Candido Portinari depicted people and landscapes of his homeland in a patriotic manner, and Lasar Segall helped introduce expressionist paintings to Brazil with an exhibit in Rio de Janeiro in 1913.

Colonial architecture was strongly influenced by the Jesuit priests and the Roman Catholic Church. In the 20th century, modern artistic movements provided inspiration for architecture as they had for art, particularly after the 1936 visit of Swiss French architect Le Corbusier, who collaborated with Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa on the Ministry of Education building in Rio de Janeiro. Niemeyer and Costa have been key figures in the high reputation of Brazilís modern architecture. Their masterpiece is the capital city of Brasilia (constructed in the 1950s), which Costa planned and for which Niemeyer designed many of the public buildings. Other important figures include Jorge Moreira Machado and Afonso Reidy. Buildings designed by these architects tend to be light, graceful, and airy, incorporating features appropriate to tropical heat and strong sunlight. They also frequently combine the skills of the architect with those of sculptors, painters, and landscape gardeners such as Roberto Burle Marx, who designed many parks and gardens in Brazil and overseas.

One of Brazilís most famous sculptors and architects is the colonial artist known as Aleijadinho, who worked in a baroque style on the churches of colonial Minas Gerais. In the modern period, more abstract styles have dominated. Important figures such as sculptors Bruno Giorgi and Maria Martins contributed works to the design of Brasilia.

Photography was introduced in Brazil in 1840, and early photographs provide an important record of society and landscape. In recent years photographer Sebastiao Salgado has created powerful images of Brazilian poverty.

There is a strong folk art tradition in Brazil, deriving from and often blending together the legacies of the Native Americans, Africans, and Portuguese. Indigenous art traditionally focused on three forms: pottery, weaving, and body art, which involved painting designs on the skin. Goods that have utilitarian functions have come to be appreciated for their aesthetic qualities. Such items include pottery, leatherwork, basketry, lace, and embroidery.

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