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Malfatti, Anita Catarina (1889–1964)

Malfatti, Anita Catarina (1889–1964)

Anita Catarina Malfatti (b. 2December 1889; d. 6 November 1964), Paulista artist who helped ignite the Brazilian modernist movement. Her oils, drawings, engravings, pastels, and watercolors were exhibited for fifty years in museums in Brazil, France, the United States, Argentina, and Chile.

Malfatti's Italian-born father died before she was thirteen. Her mother, a North American of German descent, was her first art teacher. Born with an atrophied right arm and hand, Malfatti received extensive training to use her left hand. After attending the Escola Americana, Malfatti graduated from Mackenzie College, and later taught at both institutions. Her uncle, Jorge Krug, sent her to Berlin (where she studied with Fritz Burger, Lovis Corinth, and Bischoff-Culm from 1910 to 1914). From 1914 to 1916 she took classes in New York at the Art Students League and at the Independent School of Art with Homer Boss. In 1915 her illustrations appeared in Vogue and Vanity Fair and she also painted some of the oils (O japones, O homen amarelo, a boba, a mulher de cabelos verdes) that led to the "Anita Malfatti Affair."

After returning to São Paulo in 1916, Malfatti painted two other controversial oils, Tropical and O saci, which were shown at her "Exposicão de pintura moderna" in São Paulo from December 1917 through January 1918. At first the exhibit was a success. But then an influential newspaper critic's hostile remarks led to demands for refunds and a flood of articles pro and con. Following this "Anita Malfatti Affair," a small group of young writers, other artists, and musicians began planning an event, the Modern Art Week, held in São Paulo in 1922, to vindicate her "martyrdom" and to modernize the Brazilian arts. The event did not change public opinion, however. With other members of the "Grupo dos Cinco" (Mario de Andrade, Tarsila do Amaral, Oswaldo de Andrade and Menotti del Picchia) and other Brazilians, including Lucilia Guimarães Villa-Lobos, Heitor Villa-lobos, Victor Brecheret, and Emiliano Di Calvalcanti, Malfatti traveled to Europe, where she stayed until 1928.

Malfatti had many exhibitions in Brazil, including major shows at the Salão Paulista de Arte Moderna (1932), the Salão de Arte de Feira Nacional de Indústrias (1941), the Salão Bahiano de Belas Artes (1949), and the Bienales do Museu de Arte Moderna (1951, and retrospective 1963). She was president and director of the Sindicatos dos Artistas Plásticos from 1941 to 1946.

See alsoArt: The Twentieth Century; Modernism, Brazil.


Mary [Luciana] Lombardi, "Women in the Modern Art Movement in Brazil: Salon Leaders, Artists, and Musicians, 1917–1930" (Ph.D. diss., University of California at Los Angeles, 1977).

Marta Rossetti Batista, Brasil. Vol. 1, Tempo Modernista—1917/29: Documentacão (1972), and Anita Malfatti (1889–1964) (1977).

Additional Bibliography

Camargos, Marcia. Semana de 22: Entre vaias e aplausos. São Paulo, Brazil: Boitempo, 2002.

Jardim, Eduardo. Mário de Andrade: A morte do poeta. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2005.

Prada, Cecília. "As mulheres de '22." Problemas Brasileiros 33: 314 (Mar-Apr 1996): 41-44.

                                    Mary Luciana Lombardi

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