Women from Bahia

Women from Bahia, n.d.
Oil on canvas
65 x 54 cm
Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

About the artist


EMILIANO AUGUSTO CAVALCANTI DE ALBUQUERQUE E MELO, known as DI CAVALCANTI (1897 in Rio de Janeiro – 1976 in Rio de Janeiro) was a Brazilian painter, illustrator, caricaturist, engraver, designer and scenographer, journalist and author; a contemporary of Portinari, who gained equal international renown, having started his artistic career as a cartoonist in the magazine Fon-Fon in 1917. He lived in the city of São Paulo, where he studied for a Law Degree at the Largo de São Francisco and attended classes at the atelier of Georg Elpons (1865-1939). He was part of the artistic and intellectual milieu there meeting various key figures of the 1922 Week of Modern Art, e.g. Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954) and Mário de Andrade (1893-1945). He illustrated literary and other works of art, such as A Balada do Enforcado (The Ballad of Reading Gaol) by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), and published Fantoches da Meia-Noite, edited by Monteiro Lobato (1882-1948). Di Cavalcanti conceived of the 1922 Semana de Arte Moderna and participated with 12 artworks. In 1923, he travelled to France as a Correio da Manhã correspondent, where he also attended the Académie Ranson, set up his own atelier and got acquainted with works of leading European artists and authors, for instance, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Georges Braque (1882-1963), Fernand Léger (1881-1955), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) and Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961). On his return to São Paulo in 1926, he worked as a journalist and illustrator for the newspaper Diário da Noite. Under the influence of the European vanguards, he developed his own language, adopting a nationalistic outlook focusing on social issue themes and became a member of the communist party in 1928. In 1931, he participated in the Salão Revolucionário; and, in the following year, he co-founded the Clube dos Artistas Modernos (Modern Artists’ Club) with Flávio de Carvalho (1899-1973), Antonio Gomide (1895-1967) and Carlos Prado (1908-1992), in São Paulo. In 1933, he authored A Realidade Brasileira, a satirical take on militarism of the time. He married the artist Noêmia Mourão (1912-1992), also a participant of the Exhibition. Along with Quirino da Silva, he created the allegoric murals for the Theatre João Caetano in Rio de Janeiro. Sent to jail three times on account of his political views, he went into exile to Paris in 1936, where he worked for the Radio Diffusion Française. He later provided the main buildings in Brasília with tapestries and paintings. Appointed Cultural Attaché at the Brazilian Embassy in Paris, he did not take the post because of the military coup in Brazil. He was awarded a honoris causa doctorate by the Federal University of Bahia. The catalogue of the Exhibition of Modern Brazilian Paintings underlines the presence of a painting by him at Musée Jeu de Paume and his exhibitions worldwide. His Women from Bahia (Baianas), printed at Revista Acadêmica (1933-1940), was sent to comprise the first UNESCO Exhibition of Modern Art in 1946, after touring across the UK. It was eventually donated to the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.

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