Tarsal do Amaral, known as Tarsal, is one of the most significant Latin American artists of the twentieth century who promoted modernism in Brazil She helped to create an art scene that drew on contemporary European developments while honoring indigenous Brazilian culture and style.
Born to a wealthy family in Brazil, she studied art in Sao Paulo. In the 1920s she lived in Paris and studied at the Academie Julien in Paris from 1920-1922 where she was exposed to art movements like Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism. She befriended Fernand Leger, from whom she learned how to control dazzling contrasts and to render solid surfaces with heft. She brought elements of Cubism – flattened forms, fractured space, and distorted bodies – back to Brazil.
In Rio de Janeiro, she immersed herself in the literary and artistic avant-garde, inspiring the Anthropophagic Movement, which emulated an earthy, indigenous style as it “swallowed” European culture and digested it into something authentically Brazilian.
Her paintings laid the foundations for the abstract and Neo-Concretist Brazilian artists in the 1960s. Her work blended native Brazilian art forms with the geometric style of Cubism. She distorted human figures in certain works and painted rural and urban landscapes in others. She painted vibrant scenes of Brazilian life as well as the powerful bodies of female figures.
Her signature painterly style consisted of synthetic lines and sensuous volumes depicting curvilinear landscapes and urban scenes in rich colors. Her later work consisted of more naturalistic depictions of working-class life. Do Amaral’s art helped shape Brazil’s postcolonial national identity.
Her latest exhibition “Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil” was shown at the Art Institute of Chicago and is now on view at MoMA, New York.