The humanist nature of Portinari's painting reveals profoundly held social ideals. The son of poor immigrant farm workers, Portinari recognized from a very early age the plight of the oppressed--his own people. More than any other of his contemporaries, his work excels in the authentic portrayal of Brazilian social reality. Consistently dramatic and firmly grounded on thematic representations of the human figure, Portinari's modernism endures as an unconventional synthesis of forms.
Cândido Portinari came of age during the decade of the 1930s, a time when increased nationalist attitudes would result in a complex reexamination of the social and racial fabric of the country. It was at this time when he painted the first of his Morro pictures, a recurrent theme he would visit throughout the course of his career. Now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York Morro (1933) presents a departure point towards the present painting, Morro (1959).
Unlike the palpable social realism depicted in its predecessor, the present work conveys a more prescient sense of bidimensionality; "a means of expression which was revived in the 20th century by the cubists and carried to an extreme by the abstract painters." (1) In this picture the foreground is populated by scattered miniature figures that appear to be either playing the flute or casually seating inside framed windows as if posing for their portraits.
The fusion between these figures and their abstract background, a colorful and dynamic coalescence of vertical and horizontal planes, confirms Portinari's mastery of visual synthesis. Only the outline of Rio's famed landscape reveals the dismal surroundings. It is here where we are reminded of Portinari's irrepressible compassion for his people and for his conviction of the dignity of humanity.
(1) Antonio Bento, Portinari, Rio de Janeiro, p. 173
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