Brazilian painter; born in 1903 at Brodowski in Brazil. It may seem surprising that the climate, the vitality, the exuberant landscapes of Brazil should not have induced a more widespread urge to paint. One artist, however, has recaptured the intensity of the twilights of Rio de Janeiro: Portinari.
After having been an attentive pupil at the School of Fine Arts in the Brazilian capital, he came to Paris. It is clear that he felt out of his element there, and Pascin alone seems to have exercised a lasting influence upon his vision. On his return to Brazil, Portinari drifted away very soon from everything he had learned at school and came under the spell of the atmosphere of the Rio suburbs, a city of contrasts, where light struggles day and night with shadow, where the sky threatens to conquer the earth at any moment. He forgot Paris and its mirages to fall in love with the tones that make mountain slopes iridescent and with the clouds that crowd in on the bay of Rio. Turning his back on the excessive lyricism of Brazilian cities, he caught the fascinating mystery of the existence of those who were called by Franklin D. Roosevelt the forgotten men. They taught him, with music on their lips, what is most authentic and intense in the atmosphere of the tropics. Thus, capable of resisting the excesses of the Brazilian climate, Portinari assented to being a painter of semitones, of subtle colours; and he makes us discover the magic of twilight, reminding us that this hour preceding sleep and dreams is the one which men of all times and all places have both dreaded and preferred. And this paradox can furnish us an explanation of the strong spell cast by Portinari's art. Allied both with Europe, in its most artificial aspects, and with prehistory, this art has victoriously passed the test of the American Continent, and the painter has successfully replied to the requests of the architects who urged him to paint frescoes on the scale of ambitious and oversized buildings. One does not know what to admire most in his works, his composure or his virtuosity, or the fact that he was able to meet the challenge and impose his personality when the conditions he faced might have stifled him.