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date: 19 August 2019

Tarsila [Amaral, Tarsila do]free

(b Capivari, Sept 1, 1886; d São Paulo, Jan 17, 1973).
  • Roberto Pontual

Brazilian painter. She spent her childhood on farms in the interior of São Paulo State, attended school in Barcelona, and later trained privately in São Paulo under the painter Pedro Alexandrino Borges (1864–1942). From 1920 to 1923 she attended the Académie Julian in Paris and studied with Emile Renard (1850–1930), André Lhôte, Albert Gleizes, and Fernand Léger. While briefly in São Paulo from June to December in 1922 she formed the Grupo dos Cinco with the painter Anita Malfatti (1896–1964) and the writers Menotti del Picchia, Mário de Andrade, and Oswald de Andrade, to the last of whom she was married at the time. Her close links to the local modernist movement are evident in the fusion of Brazilianism and internationalism of The Negress (1923; U. São Paulo, Mus. A. Contemp.), painted in Paris.

In 1924 she traveled through the old gold-rush towns of Minas Gerais with Mario de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade, other modernist companions and the French poet Blaise Cendrars, whose book Feuilles de route I: Le Formose (Paris, 1914) she illustrated. This journey led to her Pau-Brasil (Brazilwood) phase of paintings, with Brazilian themes characterized by geometrically stylized depictions of natural shapes, landscapes, and city scenes all in bright colors, as in Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil (1924; U. São Paulo, Mus. A. Contemp.). In 1926 Tarsila visited the Middle East and exhibited for the first time in the Galerie Percier in Paris, exhibiting there again in 1928. The earthy Surrealist archaism of her recently finished painting Abaporu (“Cannibal”; São Paulo, Dantas de Souza Forbes priv. col., see P. M. Bardi, Historia da Arte Brasileira, São Paulo, 1975, p. 201) inspired Oswald de Andrade to elaborate and publish his Manifesto antropófago (São Paulo, 1928; see Semana de arte moderna). During another stay in Europe she exhibited in Moscow in 1931 where her Fisherman (1925; St. Petersburg, Hermitage) was acquired by the state. In the 1930s she moved away from that mixture of primitivism, construction, and Surrealism towards social themes in paintings such as Workers (1933; Campos do Jordão, Pal. Boa Vista). It was only a passing phase, however, and from 1939 onwards she returned to the simple lyricism inspired by popular art, for instance in St. Ipatinga of Segredo (1941; São Paulo, Pal. Governo Estado). Later works include the religiously inspired Procession of the Sacrament (1954; São Paulo, Bienal).

Tarsila’s fusion of such apparently disparate elements as the Russian pre-Revolutionary avant-garde, the magical tropical world of Henri Rousseau, the precise rules of the esprit nouveau and the inexhaustible symbolism of Surrealism all formed part of her revelation of a complex Brazil, at once traditional and contemporary.


  • Milliet, S. Tarsila. São Paulo, 1953.
  • Tarsila. Edited by A. Amaral. Rio de Janeiro, Mus. A. Mod.; U. São Paulo, Mus. A. Contemp.; 1969. Exhibition catalog.
  • Amaral, A. Tarsila: Sua vida e seu tempo, 2 vols. São Paulo, 1975.
  • Pontual, R. Cinco mestres brasileiros: Pintores construtivistas. Rio de Janeiro, 1977.
  • Pontual, R. Entre dois séculos: Arte brasileira do século XX na Coleção Gilberto Chateaubriand. Rio de Janeiro, 1987.
  • Day, H. T. and Sturges, H. Art of the Fantastic: Latin America, 1920–1987. Indianapolis, IN, Mus. A., 1987. Exhibition catalog.
  • Silva Lima, M. G. de. “From Pau-Brasil to Antropofágia: The Paintings of Tarsila do Amaral.” Diss., Albuquerque, U. NM, 1988.
  • Ferreira, G. and Araújo, I de. “De Tarsila a Lygia Clark: Influence de Fernand Léger et d’Andre Lhote.” Cah. Brésil Contemp. 12 (1990): 125–137.
  • Amaral, A. “Tarsila: Modernidade entre a racionalidade e o onírico.” Vozes 87, no. 4 (1993): 53–59.
  • Bercht, F. “Tarsila de Amaral.” In Latin American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century, 52–59. New York, MOMA, 1993. Exhibition catalog.
  • Montreal Agusí, L. and others. Tarsila Amaral, Frida Kahlo, and Amelia Peláez. Barcelona, Cent. Cult. Fund. Caixa Pensions, 1997. Exhibition catalog.
  • Damian, Carol. “Tarsila do Amaral: Art and Environmental Concerns of a Brazilian Modernist.” Woman’s A. J. 20, no. 1 (1999): 3–7.
  • Sant’Anna, M. and Milliet, M. A. Tarsila do Amaral e Di Cavalcanti: Mito e realidade no modernismo brasiliero. São Paulo, Mus. A. Mod., 2002. Exhibition catalog.
  • Lane, Kimberly. Come Look with Me: Latin American Art. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2007.
  • Amaral, Aracy A., Sanguino, Jordi, and Toledo, Maria. Tarsila do Amaral. Madrid: Fundación Juan March, 2009.
  • Cleveland, Kimberly. “Appropriation and the Body: Representation in Contemporary Black Brazilian Art.” Journal of Black Studies 41, no. 2 (2010): 301–319.
  • Sneed, Gillian. “Anita Malfatti and Tarsila do Amaral: Gender, ‘Brasilidade’ and the Modernist Landscape.” Woman’s A. J. 34, no. 1 (2013): 30–39.
  • Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic. Edited by Peter John Brownlee, Valéria Piccoli, and Georgiana Uhlyarik. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. Published in conjuction with the exhibition of the same name, shown at Toronto, A.G. Ontario; Bentonville, AR, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; São Paulo, Pin. Estado; 2015–2016.
  • D’Alessandro, Stephanie, and Oramas L. Pérez. Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil. Chicago, Illinois: The Art Institute of Chicago; New York: The Museum of Modern Art, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. Exhibition catalog.