Revolutionary Redneck

11/06/2009 14:30 – Revista da Cultura – Book Store Magazine

Revolutionary Redneck (Click to see the full interview)

The most revolutionary act século18 painting in the country was carried out by a redneck who decided to portray the man of his land. That is the painter’s work José Ferraz de Almeida Junior, who was born in Itu, in 1850, and was consecrated with works like “Hick cutting tobacco” and “Violist”.

To Nereide Schilaro, author of the book José Ferraz de Almeida Junior, the childhood in Itu was a central period of the artist’s training. “Family relationships, the environment, the sights and sounds of this epoch mark us forever. With Almeida Júnior, was no different”, says the writer.

Almeida Júnior was the son of a farmer who produced sugar, but with the Free Womb Law, the number of slaves fell, and the estate passed to give injury. The family moved to the city, and the father of the artist started to paint walls and posters to support the offspring. Unwittingly provided the tools that the child needed to reveal his talent: ink cups and charcoal to draw.

Soon came to accept a demand to do portrait to help in the household budget. Also painted religious subjects. And the priest of the parish of Itu had an initiative that changed his whole life: Raise money among the faithful in order to send him to study at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro. There he had historical painting classes with Victor Meirelles and drawing with the French Jules Le Chevrel.

The Emperor Dom Pedro II, visiting the Academy, was impressed by the talent of the best student in the class, and when Almeida Júnior graduated, he granted him a scholarship to study in Paris.

After being a student of the famous French painter Alexandre Cabanel, Almeida Júnior returned to Brazil and returned to Itu. In France, the contact with the works of avant-garde artists helped form the concept of the painter about art. “The realistic painting of Courbet and Manet, which increased realism in the works and served as a way for young Impressionists, influenced him. To the point that he produces works with regional themes, new to the art scene in Brazil at that time,” says Nereide

For the anthropologist, Daniela Perutti, author of a master’s thesis developed at the University of São Paulo (USP) on corporeality in the works of Almeida Júnior. The painter dialogues mainly with the realistic works of Courbet and Millet. She believes that the representation of the peasant in the work of Almeida Júnior is similar to the Indian figure on the screens of Victor Meirelles. Both were seen as a type of Founding Father and as symbols of the pure nature of the backwoods. “The rustic is a remnant of the pioneer who settled in the land. São Paulo sought an identity, was a modern city still ingrained in the rural and simple figure legitimizes the inside as opposed to the coast,” says anthropologist.

The São Paulo society was undergoing significant changes with the arrival of immigrants, the growth of cities and the wealth generated by coffee. The work of Almeida Júnior helped form a repertoire imagery that illustrates the redneck culture. Daniela explain by mentioning her personal experience in the room dedicated to the works of the painter born in Itu in the Pinacoteca do Estado de Sao Paulo. “I’ve been there with many different people, and many report the feeling of having already seen it somewhere, even without ever having been there,” she says. Another issue that draws a lot of attention of the anthropologist in the painting is the light. “The Almeida Júnior creates an atmosphere that feels like a furnace; it makes the sun the great agent.
The sun acts on the skin of the peasant; that is like it was made of the same substance as the dirt floor.”For Daniela, it has to do with the positivist discourse, much in vogue at the time.” It’s as if the sun would reduce the man to a product of the environment “, she says. The passivity of the peasant to the sun is opposed from the point of view of the academic, the soundness of the bodies, which would be a form adopted by the painter to demonstrate the strength of the characters.

Pedro Xexéo, the curator of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro (NMFA), has a different view of the works of the painter. “The Almeida Júnior’s work features that most attracted my attention are the exquisite technique he acquired in Europe, plus the refined formal treatment he printed in his paintings. He was a talented draftsman and treat the color with mastery”, Pedro admires.

These features made the painter an artist admired among many different groups, even enemies. “Naturalists saw it as rustic and supported him. Monteiro Lobato goes far in this line,” says Daniela. The critics of the time also praised Almeida Júnior and the modernists, who had a critical position in relation to academic, admired Almeida Junior. Pedro Alejandrino, Oscar Pereira da Silva, and Benedito Calixto, among other painters of the time, were influenced by the artist. “After his death, the younger artist imitated him in the place of religious and historical themes by regionalist theme and the representation of the simplest aspects of Brazilian traditional lifestyle,” contextualizes Xexéo. Almeida Júnior never interested in teaching career, despite having been invited to teach at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. He died in Piracicaba, in 1899, a victim of a crime of passion. Maintained a case for many years with his cousin, married woman, and when her husband discovered stabbed the painter in the town square.


Despite the recognition and your experience abroad, the painter remained a modest man who spoke with a loaded accent of the interior and never gave up his identity. To Nereide Schilaro, this made him a coherent artist. “He made a point of praising their language, their country, and their land. Second, his biographers, he demonstrated his authenticity to emphasize his desire to return to Brazil telling the Baron of Rio Branco.” I’m killed by deprive me in Brazil. ”

The behavior strengthened as a genuinely Brazilian painter. No wonder that the recognition he had in life is increasingly validated by critics. Percival Tirapeli, Art Critics Brazilian Association vice president (ABCA), says he is specially recognized in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, because they are the places where he served. That, of course, not to mention Itu and Piracicaba. “In Itu a week ago in his honor. For St. Paul, is the painter who expressed the best of the rustic culture,” adds Percival.

Legitimacy is also confirmed by the presence of the artist’s works in the collections of major museums in the country, as the very Pinacoteca do Estado. “The NMFA also has six paintings of Almeida Júnior. Except “Hard Message”, all were held in Paris, and are among his best paintings,” boasts Xexéo.

For Percival, Almeida Júnior is the artist who gave a new direction to the academic art and hence its importance. “It is part of the first batch of works that comprised the Pinacoteca. It is the most devoted Paulista painter who attended the Academy both in Rio and Paris. Technically, it is the best artist of the end of the 19th century in the state capital,” concludes the specialist in Brazilian art.

Nereide Schilaro adds that the work of Almeida Junior enchants because it is easy to understand and brings us closer to the traditional roots of Brazil. Perhaps a quote from Leo Tolstoy, a Russian writer who was a contemporary of Almeida Júnior, summarize the legacy of the painter. “Paint your village and you will be eternal.”