Brazil Art


For centuries before the European occupation of Brazil, native tribes occupied its riverbeds, jungles and coastal stretches. These ones were semi-nomadic, living off the land and travelling as and when necessary in search of food, safety and shelter.

Despite this lack of contact with an outside world, these native people established their own cultures, customs and art forms, ranging from song and dance to religion, art and cuisine.

However, there was little means of preserving and storing this art as the tribes meandered across Brazil and had little in the way of personal possessions. Therefore, it was only when the settlers from Europe ‘discovered’ and began to occupy Brazil during the 1500’s that any sort of formal art was established.

This painting is considered the symbol of Serra da Capivara National Park, more information at:

And, because of the massive European influence of this time, the art that remains bears strong resemblances to these dominant political and social forces.

One of the very rare forms of art that have survived the centuries is rock art, although samples of this are scarce and valuable.

Visitors to Brazil should visit the Serra da Capivara National Park in Piauí State, where the art is estimated to date back millennia, to about 13 000 BCE (Before our Common Era). There is also some ceramic work that has been dated to between 800 and 1 400 of our Common Era (CE), as well as small stone amulets, which all came from the Marajoara people.

When the Roman Catholic priests came to Brazil to civilise (in their view) and educate the natives in the 16th century, they brought with them their own Baroque style of art and design. Sculptures and paintings of religious and biblical features were dramatic, bold and prevalent. This style continued well into the 18th century, aided by the gold rush.


With the 1800’s came a new inclination towards neoclassicism, romanticism and realism, which was quite different to the unrealistic boldness of the Baroque period. It affected all spectra of the artistic media, including paintings, sculptures, architecture, and so on. Whatever style the Brazilian artists adopted, it was not always in line with the European ideal of the same style. So, Brazilian romanticism was uniquely different to the romantic art that came out of Europe. Interestingly, one face of romanticism actually displayed an intrigue towards death and morbidity. Slavery and human cruelty were explored, rather than hidden beneath a mask of religious fanaticism and the overdone glamour of the Baroque period. Realism was conveyed in the form of beautiful Brazilian landscapes, captured on canvas for the world to enjoy.

The 20th century saw another change in style towards a contemporary trend. Sensitive issues (such as racial inequality) were broached in the form of cutting-edge pieces. Artists were encouraged to adopt their own personal identity and creativity, rather than to opt for the safer styles made popular by others. The ancient rituals of body painting and feather art were resurrected and integrated into modern pieces for an intertextual effect.

Some well-known and respected modern Brazilian artists include:

• Cândido Portinari
• Alberto da Veiga Guignard
• José Pancetti
• Aldo Bonadei
• Mário Zanini

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