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Anita Malfatti

Anita Catarina Malfatti

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Anita Catarina Malfatti is heralded as the first Brazilian artist to introduce European and American forms of Modernism to Brazil. Her solo exhibition in Sao Paulo from 1917-1918 was extraordinarily controversial at the time, and her expressionist style and subject were revolutionary for the rather complacently old fashioned art expectations of Brazilians who were searching for a national identity in art, but who were not at all prepared for the influences Malfatti would bring to the country. Malfatti's presence was also highly felt during the Week of Modern Art (Semana de Arte Moderna) in 1922, where she and the Group of Five made huge revolutionary changes in the structure and response to modern art in Brazil.

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Anita Catarina Malfatti (December 2, 1889 – November 6, 1964) is heralded as the first Brazilian artist to introduce European and American forms of Modernism to Brazil. Her solo exhibition in Sao Paulo, from 1917–1918, was controversial at the time, and her expressionist style and subject were revolutionary for the complacently old-fashioned art expectations of Brazilians who were searching for a national identity in art, but who were not prepared for the influences Malfatti would bring to the country. Malfatti's presence was also highly felt during the Week of Modern Art (Semana de Arte Moderna) in 1922, where she and the Group of Five made huge revolutionary changes in the structure and response to modern art in Brazil.

The cultural history throughout Brazil is relevant to the changing theories of art's purpose and the consequential role that Modernist artists played. There were not many art institutions in Brazil and the country lacked a long theory of art technique that was institutional in other countries such as France with the Academie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture. By the end of the nineteenth century there was dissent in Rio's National School of Fine Arts and it was threatened to be closed by the Republicans who wanted all people who desired to become artists would have the ability to do so. This stemmed somewhat of a revolution where society became more receptive to new ideas by 1890. However, people who were too tied to the emperor were left from the artistic and cultural spectrum. By the 1920s there was a desire for a more specified and formal reconsideration of the arts and São Paulo was especially prominent in this area. However, along with the desire for renovation came the equally strong loyalty to a realistic portrayal of Brazilian life and culture.

Malfatti's studies began in Mackenzie College in São Paulo, but the limited world of art in Brazil was not enough to satiate her curious mind and so she left for Berlin in 1912. Europe still remained an extremely important agent in defining artistic tendencies during this era. Hence, when Anita Malfatti went to Germany and studied with important artists Fritz Burger-Muhlfeld (1867–1927), Lovis Corinth (1858–1925) and Ernst Bischoff-Culm her influences and creative exposure were inflated. During this period she studied German Expressionism. German Expressionism emphasized the color pallette and artists were expected to paint with expressive amounts of emotion that was emphasized and where subjects of the work were frequently altered or jarred. A huge influence in her artistic style lay in her exposure to the Armory Show in Cologne from May to September 1912. At the show a conglomeration of artists were exposed. Although there were many post-impressionist painters exhibited, Cubism stole the show by far. Homer Boss was included in the show and Malfatti went to study with him in New York in 1915. Malfatti also studied under artists George Bridgman, Dimitri Romanoffsky (s.d.-1971), however it was her experience with Homer Boss at the Independent School of Art that was most influential. Homer Boss was a huge impact on Malfatti's style because of his comprehensive studies of the human anatomy. He stressed the idea of understanding the muscular body which helped Malfatti to hone her own technique. New York was central in celebrating Cubism and Malfatti was an exceptional student within the Independent School of Art. Thus she was exposed to European style, which by the early twentieth centuries was even being forged with other styles. Europe's views on Modernism included a subjective treatment toward subjects as well as a highly repellent attitude towards the artistic movements proceeding modernism such as Realism or Romanticism. Malfatti’s exposure to the European world of art allowed her a glimpse into an artistic world that she could never have known in São Paulo and gave her the more global viewpoint that she would pass on to other artists as well.

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Anita Malfatti Artworks
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