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By Amy Skalmusky, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL –There are only two days left to see one of the most significant works of 20th century Latin American Art for free.  The murals, known as War and Peace by renowned Brazilian artist Cândido Portinari, are on display for free at the Theatro Municipal (Municipal Theater) in Rio’s Centro.

War and Peace murals by Portinari are on display at the Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro until December 30th/image recreation.
War and Peace murals by Portinari are on display at the Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro until December 30th, image recreation.

The panels, measuring about fourteen meters by ten meters each, (59 by 33 feet), depict Portinari’s vision of a planet ravaged by wars and injustice, as well as his dreams of a better world.

Since 1956, the murals have made their permanent home in the entrance hall of the United Nations building in New York City, a gift from the Brazilian government for the new headquarters of the UN.

The decision to commission Portinari to produce a work of art that work that would represent Brazil’s culture and people was an easy one. The modernist painter was well known for his images of rural and urban labor, refugees fleeing the hardships of the rural northeast, as well as key events in the country’s history.

Son of Italian immigrants and second of 12 children, Portinari was born in 1903 in Brodowski, São Paulo. He recognized his vocation as a painter from an early age and in 1918 moved to Rio de Janeiro to enroll in the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes (Fine Arts Academy). There he won the coveted annual travel fellowship to Europe and in 1928 he moved to Paris.

His time in Europe turned out to be productive in an nontraditional way. Though he didn’t produce many paintings in the two years he spent in Europe, he is reported to have said that it was only from there that he was able to truly see and appreciate his homeland. He promised to paint Brazil and its people upon returning.

On the far left, Cândido Portinari in 1936, photo by CPDOC-FGV Projeto Portinari/ARFH87.
On the far left, Cândido Portinari in 1936, photo by CPDOC-FGV Projeto Portinari/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

True to his word, his 1935 painting Café depicted the plantation near his home in São Paulo, and won Second Honorable Mention at the International Exhibition of Modern Art, sponsored by the Carnegie Institute.

From then on, he continued to achieve greater international prominence with large panel exhibits at the World Fair in New York, the first solo exhibition at MoMA, four panels for the Library of Congress in Washington, solo exhibit at the Galerie Charpentier in Paris, among others.

Unfortunately his love was also his downfall, and Portinari died of lead-poising from his paints in 1962. Throughout his life, he produced over 4,000 works of art, however, much of it became scattered throughout Brazil and the rest of the world, residing mostly in private collections and out of the public view.

From Rio, the murals will be on traveling display until 2013 stopping at the Grand Palais in Paris, the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, Japan, Oslo Municipal Auditorium (where it will be shown during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony), and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Place: Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, Praça Marechal Floriano S/N, Centro
Price: Free (at the box office 30 minutes before each viewing session)
Date: Until December 30th, 2010.
Time: 10AM, Noon, 2PM, 4PM, 6PM and 8PM

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