Abaporu: the history of the most valuable painting of Brazilian art

Abaporu: the history of the most valuable painting of Brazilian art

On January 11, 1928, the painter Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973) woke up anxious. It was the birthday of her husband, the writer Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954), and she had prepared a surprise: a painting measuring 85 centimeters by 73 centimeters, painted in secret over the last few months.

With his flustered and verbose manner, Oswald didn't even let the artist explain the work. He immediately praised her, saying it was the most amazing thing she had ever done. "This painting is exceptional", he said. "It is the man planted in the earth."

On the same day, Oswald showed the gift to one of his friends, the poet Raul Bopp (1898-1984). And together they began to see there, in that enigmatic figure, a cannibal Indian, an anthropophagous man, the one who would devour culture in order to take possession of it and reinvent it.

Tarsila got carried away with the interpretation and ran to an old Tupi-Guarani dictionary. There she found the words "aba" and "poru"-"man who eats". The one that would become the most valuable painting of Brazilian art, Abaporu, was baptized.

But what would be just a birthday present from an artist to her husband ended up transcending any relationship to become one of the most famous paintings in Brazil - and certainly the most valuable.

"His greatness came about right from the start, because in that context he ended up inspiring the Anthropophagic Manifesto, written by Oswald, and the movement that would stem from this text, Antropofagia", says Tarsilinha do Amaral, great-niece and person responsible for the rights to the work. by the artist, in an interview with BBC News Brasil.

"Next, the painting ended up becoming a symbol of everything that modernism wanted to say. Anthropophagy, in the sense of absorbing European culture, dominant at the time, and transforming it into something national, all of that was synthesized with Abaporu."

"A painting with this story gained importance and fame. And everything contributed to it becoming the most important painting in Brazilian art", says Tarsilinha.