Tarsila do Amaral – Workers (1933)

After starting a relationship with communist doctor Osório Cesar and taking a tour of the Soviet Union, Brazilian artist Tarsila do Amaral joined the Communist Party herself. The relationship was short lived, as was her infatuation with communism. A few of her works, however, remain as a reminder of her once strongly held political beliefs.

Workers (Operários) is considered to be the first painting with a social theme in the history of Brazilian art. It presents a pyramid of human heads – much resembling a pile of skulls in its arrangement – dreary and fatigued. Women and men, white, mixed race or black, young or old, they all look defeated, drained of life. The monotonous factories fuming in the background are the obvious cause of their misery. The way in which the heads are arranged, like a swelling tide, suggests that we’re seeing only a fraction of the mass of exhausted workers.

Tarsila do Amaral - Workers
Tarsila do Amaral – Workers (1933), oil on canvas

13 thoughts on “Tarsila do Amaral – Workers (1933)

    1. Hmm… I wouldn’t call them threatening. They’re individualized, with distinct features, humane. They’re oppressed and yes, there is strength in numbers… but I wouldn’t expect a reaction from them soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I also notice that there are more woman/colored people on the lower end of the hierarchy than in the top portion. Maybe this too was a subtle message.
    A powerful painting, which still rings true in many of the developing and under developed nations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t call this a hierarchy, but I can see how there are more fair skinned people at the top. Good observation. Slavery hadn’t been abolished for long in Brazil, so maybe she did that intentionally … or we’re reading too much into it. I still view it as a very inclusive painting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So important to know the context of a painting. For example if I don’t know how this painter usually paints faces , I cannot determine the way they look here are on purpose so, or just the painter’s style.
        Are they frightened, bored, tired, indifferent. One needs to know how the painter usually draws people to get a better sense of that.
        Just thinking aloud. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I was born in the Soviet Union when the communist party were in reign. People in the picture remind me zombies following communist ideology blindly, fanatics lost their individuality

    Sorry, that s my humble opinion
    Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This image and the comments remind me once again of how vulnerable a painting is to outside interpretation according to other people’s beliefs, conclusions, perspectives, and so on. To me it’s quite clear the artist is giving faces to faceless workers who are expected to toil like expendable worker bees without their own, unique, priceless, individuality. Gotta’ love when a group of people are blithely consigned to servitude, especially when whoever is presiding over them is a dope (a couple startling examples come to mind from my own country).

    Of course, my reading may also be off. If I had to bet, though, I’d say the artist was sympathetic to the workers and saw them as victims of circumstances too enveloping from the vast majority to escape (a lesson of history repeated ad nauseum).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you on the interpretation, I also thought it was straightforward. But when people bring their own views, you might notice some new things or reconsider what you take for granted.

      “Gotta’ love when a group of people are blithely consigned to servitude, especially when whoever is presiding over them is a dope (a couple startling examples come to mind from my own country).”

      That’s so ironic, with the US being the model for individuality (and freedom, and democracy etc). The world is watching. I’d be curious to know how you feel about China taking over as the global leader.

      Liked by 1 person

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