Anita Malfatti

18891964 | São Paulo, Brazil

Brazilian painter.

Anita Malfatti is considered the pioneer of the modernist movement in Brazil. She perfected her craft from 1910 to 1914, studying art at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, where she was influenced by the expressionist leanings of her teachers, especially Ernst Bischoff-Culm and Lovis Corinth. She took up metal engraving and focused mainly on portraits, which she painted in vivid colours and bold brushwork. Her first solo exhibition was held in São Paulo in May 1914. She then moved to New York for a year to take classes with Homer Boss at the Independent School of Art, where she made friends with many artists who had fled the war. It was in this atmosphere of exchange and modernist freedom that she painted some of her most famous works: A Estudante russa (The Russian Student, 1915), Torso/Ritmo (Torso/Rhythm, 1915–1916), and O Homem amarelo (The Yellow Man, 1915–1916), characterised by a deep understanding of the human body and its distortions paired with a cubist style. She distanced herself from the classical manner by outlining her figures in thick black lines, turning them into voluminous masses.

A. Malfatti worked on several pastels and illustrations for Vanity Fair and Vogue before returning to Brazil for her second solo exhibition in December 1917, for which she received strong criticism from the local press, who considered her visual language too modern. Acknowledgement would come later, when she exhibited at the Week of Modern Art alongside her fellow modernist Brazilian artists in the Group of Five (Tarsila do Amaral, Mario de Andrade, Menotti del Picchia, Oswald de Andrade, and herself). She moved to Paris the following year and showed her work several times at the Salon d’automne and Salon des indépendants between 1924 and 1928. Over time, her style leaned further toward the simplicity of primitive painting and became increasingly naïve, showing her interest in flowers and everyday scenes. Her first retrospective was held in 1949 at the Museum of Art São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand. She also took part in the 1951 and 1963 editions of the São Paulo Biennale. In 2010, the Banco do Brasil Cultural Centre held an exhibition celebrating the 121st anniversary of her birth.

Lucia Pesapane

Translated from French by Lucy Pons.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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