Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – While today we take for granted that female artists work and present their efforts in public, just a hundred years ago it was considered taboo. An exhibit in São Paulo is honoring the Brazilian female artists that blazed the trail, with “Women Artists: The Pioneers (1880-1930)” which runs until September 6th and features some fifty works including paintings, drawings and sculptures, many of them previously unreleased to the public.

Abigail de Andrade, Female Brazilian Artist, São Paulo, Brazil, Brazil News
A painting by Abigail de Andrade, one of the pioneering female artist on display at the exhibit, internet image recreation.

At the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, and curated by Ana Paula Simioni, Elaine Dias and Fernanda Pitta, the exhibit aims to show the women who first entered the Brazilian art system, emphasizing the training processes they had access to and their affirmation as professional artists.

Contrary to what was publicly stated at the time, the curators say the art world, and society, sought to restrict female artists to the domestic environment, thereby limiting them to the status of “naturally amateur”, yet during this period several painters and sculptors made works of historical importance.

Curator Ana Paula Simioni explains in an interview with Agência Brasil how the exhibition helps tell the history of art and women, “The academic art system in Brazil was implemented based on the French model, which arrived in Brazil in 1816, but was only implemented in 1826. This system did not include women as part of the student body because it was considered completely inappropriate for the female sex to access the study of the living model – a central stage in the formation of artists.”

“It was not enough to have a law that allowed that they could attend the institution [art academy]. Imagine what it was in 1900, a woman access a live model. There are letters from that time where [they report that] their parents did not allow them to attend these classes because many were held at night and that was considered inappropriate especially for elite women or those of the upper classes,” explained Simioni.

Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil, Brazil News
Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, photo by Filipe_Borges/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

The exhibition occupies two rooms of the museum. The first one emphasizes academic practices, with the female and male body studies, for example. In the second room are varieties of artistic genres to which the women dedicated themselves to in the period.

According to the curator, the first group of women artists did not intend to create a specific training for women different from men – a position that only arose in the 1960s “this first generation of professional artists what we celebrate is precisely joining in the system and dominate that vocabulary or set of rules that was accessible only to men. That is the great achievement: learning a language in a system that previously excluded them,” adds Simioni.

Among the artists who will have their works exhibited are Tarsila do Amaral, Anita Malfatti, Beatriz Pompeu de Camargo, Abigail de Andrade (who won the first gold medal at the 26th General Exhibition of Fine Arts in 1840) and Julieta de França (the first Brazilian artist to win a prize trip abroad in 1900).

According to the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, the museum from the State of São Paulo Culture, the time frame of the exhibit explores an arc of work between 1880 and 1930, including the awarded works of Abigail de Andrade from the 26th General Exhibition of Fine Arts in 1884, and the 1930s, with the so-called “routinization” of modernism in Brazil, at which women artists come to occupy definitely a prominent place in Brazilian art.


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