Biographical notes: Candido Portinari

It was December 29, 1903, when Candido Portinari was born on a coffee farm near the town of Brodowski, in the state of São Paulo. The date of his birthday still causes confusion, since it was very common at the time to adopt the day of registration as the day of birth. For this reason, some believe that Portinari was born on the 30th and not the 29th.

His parents were Italian immigrants from the Veneto region. The family was very humble and the painter's childhood was marked by poverty. Portinari's formal education was limited to elementary school. However, from a very young age, he already showed his talent and artistic vocation, starting to paint at the age of nine. And so it was, from the coffee plantation to the United Nations, that the boy became one of the greatest painters of his time.

When he was 15, Portinari left Brodowski for Rio de Janeiro, where he enrolled at the National School of Fine Arts. In 1928, his talent did not go unnoticed and he was recognized with the European Travel Award for his Portrait of Olegário Mariano. This was, in fact, a turning point in his career. Who would have thought that the boy who grew up in Brodowski would be spending a season in France? And it was during his stay in Paris in 1930 that he saw his homeland from a different perspective. This inspired him to paint Brazil with all its distinct characteristics - its history, its people, its culture, its flora and fauna. So he decided: "I'm going to paint those people in those clothes and in those colors."

When he returned to Brazil in 1931, Portinari put his dream into practice and began to portray the country in his works. His murals, paintings, drawings and engravings revealed the essence of the Brazilian soul, highlighting both the joy and beauty as well as the difficulties and pain faced by the people. At this point, his entire artistic expression began to transcend the academicism of his training, combining the ancient science of painting with a modern experimentalist personality.

The writer Antônio Callado described Portinari's work as a "monumental book of art that teaches Brazilians to love their land more."

Portinari was part of Brazil's intellectual elite, hanging out with poets, writers, musicians, architects, educators, politicians, journalists and diplomats. He was also politically engaged, joining the Communist Party and running for political office, although he was not elected. As political repression worsened, he went into exile for a time in Uruguay.

The human being is at the heart of Candido Portinari's work. Concerned with social issues, he portrayed the reality of the Brazilian people in strong, striking colors. But there is also a lyrical side to his works, which brings back memories of his childhood in Brodowski - children playing in the streets, couples in love, rural workers - depicting human beings in moments of tenderness, solidarity and peace.

Portinari gained recognition both in Brazil and abroad for his artistic production and his cultural and humanist commitment. His exhibitions, awards and honors, as well as the respect he earned, demonstrate his importance. He is a source of pride for the Brazilian people, who see themselves represented in his work.

During the last decade of his life, Portinari created the famous War and Peace panels for the United Nations headquarters, a masterpiece that represents his most universal and profound contribution. For the director of the Portinari Project, João Candido, this work constitutes the greatest work of the painter's entire life. "The most universal, the most profound, too, in its majestic dialog between the tragic and the lyrical, between fury and tenderness, between drama and poetry."

According to artist Enrico Bianco, the works War and Peace "are the two great pages of exciting communication that the philosopher/painter delivers to humanity."

If painting was an act practiced with such dedication and love, we can say that Portinari died loving it. After going against doctor's orders to stay away from his craft, on February 6, 1962, the painter died of intoxication caused by the heavy metals contained in the paints he used in his art.

Three days after his funeral, Carlos Drummond de Andrade dedicated the poem The Hand to him. 

'Between the coffee plantation and the dream
the boy paints a golden star
on the chapel wall,
and nothing else resists the painter's hand.
The hand grows and paints
what is not meant to be painted but suffered.
The hand is always composing
what has escaped the fatigue of Creation and revises rehearsals of forms
and corrects the oblique by the aerial
and sows daisies of love in the chests of the vanquished.
The hand grows larger and makes
the world-as-repeat the world we want.
The hand knows the color of color
and with it dresses the naked and the invisible.
Everything has an explanation because everything has a (new) color.
Everything exists because it was painted like a magic orange
not to quench the thirst of our companions.
mainly to sharpen it
to the limit of the earth's sense of home.

Between the dream and the coffee plantation
between war and peace
between martyrs, offended,
musicians, rafts, pandoras,
among the mechanized farmers of Israel,
the memory of Giotto and the first aroma of Brazil
between love and craft
the hand decides:
all children, even the most unfortunate
to be dizzyingly happy
as the portrait is happy
multiple pink-green portraits in two generations
of the child who sways like a flower in the cosmos
and makes the surplus hand humble, servile and domestic
in its power to enchant.

Now there is a truth without anguish
even in being anguished.
What was pain is flower, plastic
knowledge of the world.
And for having thus laid down the essentials,
leaving the rest to the doctors of Byzantium,
abruptly falls silent
and flies away to the never-never
the infinite hand
the blue-eyed hand of Candido Portinari.'

Lei de Incentivo à Cultura - Lei Rouanet
PUC Rio Portinari
Enauta Itau
 logo Projeto Portinari Ministério da Cultura