(1886 – 1973), Brazil

Tarsila Do Amaral Biography

Tarsila do Amaral was a Brazilian painter known for her contribution to Brazil's 'Cannibalist' movement. Regarded as a pioneer of modern art in Latin American, do Amaral provided a unique perspective on the modernist art movement of the mid-20th century. Her richly coloured paintings incorporate elements of Cubism and Latin American iconography.

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Early Years

Tarsila do Amaral was born in Capivari, a small town on the outskirts of São Paulo. Her Brazilian bourgeoisie family brought her up in rural surroundings.

In 1920 she moved to Paris and enrolled at the Académie Julian, a recognised modern art school. At this school she studied with André Lhote, Albert Gleizes, and Fernand Léger, French artists that were deeply rooted in the Cubist movement. Do Amaral's training in Paris influenced her distinct style that fused European Cubism with Brazilian iconography.

In 1923 São Paulo hosted Modern Art Week, a celebration of Brazil's arts scene that was organised to commemorate the country's anniversary of independence. When do Amaral returned from Paris, she felt inspired by the event's impact on her friends—artist Anita Malfatti and novelists Paulo Menotti del Picchia, Oswald de Andrade, and Mário de Andrade. In the same year, these artists and writers formed the Grupo dos Cincos (the Group of Five), a group dedicated to the development of ideas in Brazilian modern art.

Tarsila do Amaral's Artworks

During the early 1920s, Tarsila do Amaral drew inspiration from her native country. She studied the culture and landscape of Brazil and began painting her observations as a way to convey her nationalistic expressionism.

Abaporu (1928)

Arguably do Amaral's most famous artwork, Abaporu (1928) was a birthday gift to her husband Oswald de Andrade. In this painting, do Amaral depicts a seated nude figure beside a blooming cactus. The title is from the South American Tupi-Guarani language and translates to 'Man Who Eats Man'.

After receiving Abaporu as a gift, do Amaral's husband wrote the Manifesto of Anthropophagy (1928), a publication that considered Brazil's colonial suffering and proposed the country assert its independence through the 'artistic cannibalism' of exterior influences. Do Amaral's painting became the centrepiece for this significant Latin American arts movement.

Lonely Figure (1930)

Do Amaral's painting style began to change after she divorced de Andrade in 1930. In Lonely Figure (1930), do Amaral paints a figure facing away from the viewer with hair that flows out of the frame. The figure is facing a minimal yet infinite landscape and appears to be in a state of contemplation.

Lonely Figure is a figurative self-portrait that explores simple form of representation. Do Amaral's painting signifies her move away from creative portrayals of nature and wildlife. Lonely Figure was the only painting she produced in 1930.

Operários (Workers) and Segunda Classe (Second Class) (1933)

In the 1930s do Amaral's practice became focused on social themes. Her paintings Operáios (Workers) and Segunda Classe (Second Class) (both 1933) portray dimly lit migrant workers grouped together in grim surroundings.

Do Amaral's paintings highlight the racial diversity amongst migrants in Brazil. The paintings also reflect on the subordinated position of the working class in the world's modern industrial society.

Awards and Accolades

In 1998 Tarsila do Amaral's work was featured in the 24th São Paulo Art Biennial.

Her paintings are in the collections of major museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and MALBA in Buenos Aires. Her artwork has been included in group shows at galleries including Palais De Tokyo in Paris, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, and Museu de Arte Moderna in São Paulo.


In 2018 the Museum of Modern Art in New York exhibited 120 works by Tarsila do Amaral in the exhibition Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil. This was the first exhibition in the United States exclusively devoted to the artist.

Other exhibitions include Brazilian Print Masters, LAART, São Paulo (2021); Landscapes of the South, Mendes Wood DM, New York (2020); Women Artists in Brazil, LAART, São Paulo (2020); #ArtWiseUP: The Way of Animals, ArtWise, New York (2018); Anthropophagy and Modernity: Brazilian Art in the Fadel Collection, MALBA, Buenos Aires (2016).

Phoebe Bradford | Ocula | 2021

Tarsila Do Amaral
featured artworks

Paisagem com bichos antropofágicos by Tarsila Do Amaral contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Tarsila Do Amaral Paisagem com bichos antropofágicos, 1930 Graphite and coloured pencil on paper
10.3 x 16.3 cm
Mendes Wood DM Request Price & Availability
Boi na paisagem by Tarsila Do Amaral contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Tarsila Do Amaral Boi na paisagem, 1920s Ink on paper
21.5 x 21.5 cm
Mendes Wood DM Request Price & Availability

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