Di Cavalcanti, Emiliano (1897–1976)

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Di Cavalcanti, Emiliano (1897–1976)

Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (b. 1897; d. 1976), Brazilian painter. In 1914 Di Cavalcanti initiated his artistic career with the publication of one of his drawings in a magazine entitled Fon-Fon. In 1916 he moved from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo, where he studied law and worked as an illustrator and journalist. In 1918, one year after exhibiting a series of "antiacademic" Beardsley-inspired caricatures in São Paulo, he began studying painting with the German painter Elpons. His first exhibition of paintings took place in 1921. During this period, Di Cavalcanti, in collaboration with modernist Paulistas Anita Malfatti and Vítor Brecheret, became one of the leaders of the Brazilian modernist movement. These three artists conceptualized and ultimately organized the 1922 Semana de Arte Moderna (Modern Art Week), a week-long series of poetry, dance, and fine arts exhibitions. It coincided with the centenary celebration of Brazilian independence and is regarded as a watershed for Brazilian cultural expression.

Di Cavalcanti's first trip to Europe in 1923 introduced him to the European avant-garde in art and literature. While the cubism and surrealism of Picasso, Braque, Léger, and Matisse influenced his own painting greatly, he remained devoted to national themes such as the bohemian life in Rio de Janeiro, mulatto women, and Carnival. In his memoirs he affirmed that "the mulata for me is a Brazilian symbol. She is not black or white, neither rich nor poor. Like our people, she likes to dance, she likes music and soccer … the mulata is feminine and Brazil is one of the most feminine countries in the world."

Upon his return to Brazil, he settled in Rio. Between 1927 and his return to Paris in 1935, Di Cavalcanti received a commission to prepare two wall panels for the João Caetano Theater. During this same period he exhibited in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. By the 1950s he had attained international recognition as one of the greatest modernist painters. In the second São Paulo Biennial in 1954, he won the highest honor, Best National Painter, and in the seventh São Paulo Biennial there was a special room devoted exclusively to an exhibition of his paintings.

See alsoModernism, Brazilxml .


Luis Martins, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (1953).

Emiliano Di Cavalcanti, Reminiscéncias líricas de um perfeito carioca (1964).

Aracy Amaral, Artes plásticas na Semana de 22: Subsídios para una história da renovação das artes no Brasil (1992), esp. pp. 99-128, 246-248.

Additional Bibliography

Simioni, Ana Paula Cavalcanti. Di Cavalcanti, ilustrador: Trajetória de um jovem artista gráfico na imprensa (1914–1922). São Paulo: Editora Sumaré; FAPESP, 2002.

Zílio, Carlos. A querela do Brasil: A questão da identidade da arte brasileira: A obra de Tarsila, Di Cavalcanti e Portinari, 1922–1945, 2nd edition. Rio de Janeiro: Relume Dumará, 1997.

                                   Caren A. Meghreblian