"Baptized of Macunaíma", 1956, Tarsila do Amaral

Starting from Tarsila, painting began to influence Brazilian poetry. The painting “Abaporu” decides Raul Bopp's vocation […]; others from the same cycle will evoke texts by Mário de Andrade […]. Canvases such as “Distance”, “A cuca”, “O sono”, “A negra”, will travel clandestinely throughout my Poems, alternating with works by Max Ernst, Primeiro Cícero Dias and the first De Chirico. The pau-brasil painting and the anthropophagic painting flatten the later paths of poetry. (Murilo Mendes/Complete Poetry. Lightning portraits🇧🇷 P.1250).

What does MASP want by putting it in the same room the abaporu, 1928, e Baptism of Macunaíma, 1956, both by Tarsila do Amaral? Providing the public, even for a few minutes, with the one who would be the “beginning” of the artist’s trajectory, alongside her “swan song”, or forcing them to live the experience of occupying the same space with a of the artist's most important works, alongside the one that marks her melancholy end? For the public familiar with Tarsila's work, the second option would be the most correct. For this visitor, the experience has a bitter aftertaste, as that coexistence takes on tinges of perversity, even malice, towards the artist. For the common public, this experience has another degree of perversity. Placing the two works in the same space means teaching that both are equivalent, have the same aesthetic vigor, the same historical importance.

The importance of abaporu lies in the fact that this painting – breaking with the well-behaved Brazilian painting of its time – introduced a disruptive iconography that, blurring the limits of the good taste of tradition, brought to the surface a terrible mythological being, coming from the bowels of the unconscious. of the artist and the collective. Such force was what would have catalyzed the interests of Tarsila, Oswald de Andrade and Raul Bopp to forge the Anthropophagic Movement – ​​a trend that would place (and still places) the art of Brazil on a higher level in the international cultural sphere.

Yes, Baptism of Macunaíma repeats in a “stylized” key the tradition of great painting linked to the academies, concerned with extolling the meanings of “Motherland”, “Nation” and other institutions, based on significant episodes, both in official history and in mythology, etc. In this sense, when painting Baptism of Macunaíma, Tarsila seems to have wanted to elevate the character created in 1928, by Mário de Andrade, to the level of a symbol. Symbol of what? Probably from the definitive institutionalization through which São Paulo's Modernism passed during that decade of the city's IV Centenary. if abaporu means the breaking of something new between us, Baptized it is simply the dressing of the new into an institution, into a norm. The two works have similarities because the one from 1956 was produced in a modernist “style”. In other words, Tarsila copied herself, trivialized, crystallized into styles what in the 1920s was pure experimentation.

“Abaporu”, 1928, Tarsila do Amaral.

But for MASP there seems to be no problem in placing two works side by side which, despite appearances, are the negation of each other. In doing so, the institution naturalizes the artifice, adding to Tarsila's legacy to be celebrated and remembered, what was left in the basements of public institutions or displayed with a certain modesty on private walls. I say this because this strategy of showing chaff alongside wheat is a constant throughout the artist's exhibition at MASP and not just in the room commented on. Emblematic landscapes of Tarsila, for example, produced at the height of her most protean period, are displayed alongside imitations of herself, produced decades later. The public with a little more intimacy with her oba understands this attitude of the Museum as a mistake or as an articulated action to help in the process of exhuming the “other side” of Tarsila's production. The general public, who (supposedly) the exhibition was produced for, leaves the show believing that everything they saw is worthy of reverence, that all the works presented there have the same aesthetic power and the same importance for the country culture.


An alternative to avoiding the presentation of all sides by an artist like Tarsila would be to choose to present only the works that, in fact, made her significant for Brazilian art. With only good works, texts and other supporting materials, the public would leave the show with a clearer understanding of how Tarsila was, little by little, gaining the status of the main artist of the first half of the last century. However, if the goal is to also present its “dark side”, surely the best strategy should not be the one used by MASP: neutralizing deep differences between the works, showing them side by side, or else in the same room. Why not present Tarsila's less happy works and explain – based not only on the parameters of art history, but also on the formal reality of each one of them – the reasons that make them different from those admittedly fundamental to Brazilian art? Such an option would certainly meet fierce opposition from collectors, gallerists, museum directors, etc. The exhibition would certainly be smaller, but more honest with the public.

Mixing garlic with bugalhos is definitely not making a “Popular Tarsila”, it is presenting a “populist” Tarsila, an exhibition, perhaps, more concerned with pleasing sponsors and meeting the hardships of the market; never to meet the glaring needs of artistic education of the population.


  1. Great for understanding the artist's work and for thinking about curated work.
    Congratulations Tadeu Chiarelli!!

  2. Excellent, Tadeu Chiarelli! Brave your courage in defying this attempt at populism that ends up distorting the history (and trajectory) of Tarsila.

  3. I really liked the text. I didn't see the exhibition. I read an article in the magazine Época, of 10.06.2019. Everything indicates that Tadeu Chiarelli is absolutely right!

  4. Congratulations Tadeu, great enlightening, educational text about the work of Tarsila do Amaral and the look of a mistaken curator.

Leave a comment

Please write a comment
Please write your name