Emiliano Di Cavalcanti – Woman with a Bird (1961)

A pioneer of Brazilian modernism, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti’s ideal had always been to capture the essence of his country without the influence of European art. It was, foremost, an issue of national pride, magnified by the fact that Latin Americans everywhere were searching for their own voice.

This conviction was certainly strengthened by his years spent in Paris. First between 1923 and 1925, when he met Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger and the second time between 1937 and 1940, when he was forced to leave by the outbreak of World War II. While the years spent in Paris fueled Di Cavalcanti’s nationalism and determination to depict Brazil in all its beauty and glory, these experiences also meant that the Brazilian artist, despite his long held wish, could never truly escape the influence of European modernism.

Emiliano Di Cavalcanti - Femme a l'oiseau
Emiliano Di Cavalcanti – Woman with a Bird (1961), oil on canvas

Woman with a Bird is a representative painting for Di Cavalcanti, blending national pride with European art influences. The artwork depicts a naked, mixed-race woman set against the luxurious Brazilian flora, gently holding a bird in her hand. A parrot is also behind her. The artist was quite consumed with the female form and he saw mulatto women as emblems of Brazilian identity and bearers of the utmost femininity:

“For me, the mulatto woman is the symbol of Brazil. She is neither black nor white, neither rich nor poor. She likes dance, music, football… like all our people. I imagine her lying down on a bed, just like I imagine the country lying down in a splendid cradle. The mulatto is femininity and Brazil is the most feminine country in the world.”

The woman is rendered in bold, geometric lines, reminiscent of Cubism. Her breasts are conical, her feet and hands are clearly oversized. She is voluptuous, exuding strength and resilience, but also harmony, as she blends in easily with the lush setting. Behind her, the green and yellow hues remind us of the national flag of Brazil. As Di Cavalcanti envisioned it, the woman captures Brazil’s strong femininity.



Carybé – The Death of Alexandrina (1939)

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Maverick ~ says:

    I like this with the bright colors, excellent description Gabriela.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gabriela says:

      Thanks, Maverick. That’s what I like about Latin American art, it’s so full of life and color.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very beautiful and vibrant. A Brazilian Eve.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gabriela says:

      I like that, “Brazilian Eve” would have made for a great title too. The woman certainly has a very primordial feel about her, since she’s so at ease in nature.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Eric Wayne says:

    I like all the subtle and rich shades of browns and reds in combination with the greens and blues.

    Her left arm looks like it’s coming out of her head! 🙂

    And those breasts. They really remind me of one of my own paintings (no promo): https://artofericwayne.com/2016/07/17/eying-the-ironess-behind-the-scenes/

    His stuff about Brazil being the most feminine country is interesting. I’m not exactly sure what it means.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gabriela says:

      Your boobs are so much smaller! I liked your use of negative space around them.

      By femininity I’m thinking of sensuality and perhaps fecundity (in terms of the lush nature), just like everything is imbued with dance in Brazil. I find the dance – with the movement of the hips – feminine.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Eric Wayne says:

        Yeah, but they are also perfectly round and funnel like. Of course mine are on a robot.

        I see about Brazil, but I also associate them with Brazilian Jujitsu and MMA. Anyone who watches UFC knows that Brazil has some of the very best fighters in the world, and they aren’t feminine. Now, admittedly MMA is a distorted lens.

        I like the idea of a feminine country, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. jamescelano says:

    “…his ideal had always been to capture the essence of his country without the influence of European art.” Is that why he spent the years 1923-1925 in Paris meeting up with some of the most prominent European artists of the time? And then went back in the late thirties only to be forced to return because of WWII. The figure shows a big influence of Picasso, particularly in the treatment of the breasts and the legs and feet. Look at some of Picasso nudes from the twenties and thirties. The decorative markings in the background foliage also reflect Picasso of the fifties and sixties. Artists say a lot of things, but the proof is in the pudding, i.e. the paintings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gabriela says:

      I know what you mean. There is this discrepancy between what Di Cavalcanti said and his actions/art. Perhaps what he wanted most of all was a Brazilian Paris of sorts, a creative hub where history would be made. Despite the European influences, in the end he made his own art, which captures the spirit of Brazil so well


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