Brazil Arts and Literature

Brazil Arts and Literature


During the first period, from the 16th century to the beginning of the 18th century, the Brazilian literature consisted of descriptions of the new and unknown land, written by chroniclers, and then of works in which this virgin reality was transformed into visions, myths and a nascent national consciousness. In addition, religious poems and plays, so-called autos, were written by, among others. José de Anchieta, as part of the missionary work of the Indians. The Baroque in European literature gained its local variation in Brazil during the 17th century with two significant representatives: Antônio Vieira and Gregório de Matos. At a time when books and readers were still few, their poetry was mainly oral. They were prominent speakers, preachers and readers of their works.

Brazil Population Pyramid

  • Countryaah: Population and demographics of Brazil, including population pyramid, density map, projection, data, and distribution.

In the 18th century, as in the motherland of Portugal, a number of literary societies were formed, especially in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. From Europe came the enlightenment ideas and the shepherd poetry, which were practiced by Tomás Antônio Gonzaga and Basílio da Gama. These are reflections of Portuguese and French poetry with Brazilian local color. The Indian as a theme penetrated with the so cherished myth of “the good wild”. This paved the way for Brazilian romance.

When Brazil became independent in 1822, it brought a new consciousness to literature. This was reinforced by the interest in Brazilian poetry in France, which in 1825 got its first literary history, “Resumé d’Histoire Littéraire du Brésil”, written by Ferdinand Denis. Until 1880, the Brazilian literature underwent rapid development in the characters of romance. It was part of the national liberation process. They described nature, people and their customs, customs and history. The Indians (the natives) represented the real in contrast to the colonizers (the invaders). Then the paradox emerged that writers, who were descendants of Portuguese with ideas, languages ​​and literary designs, directly derived from Europe, in their works they emphasized the superiority of the domestic life patterns over the Europeans – entirely in the spirit of romance in the aftermath of Chateaubriand. Nevertheless, something specifically Brazilian was created. Leading representatives of the romance of poetry were Antônio Gonçalves Dias and the two at very young years killed Manuel Antônio Álvares de Azevedo and Antônio Federico Castro Alves. Within the prose, interest in the indigenous people, nature and the country created a regionalist novel, whose main representatives are José de Alencar and Manuel Antônio de Almeida.

In the transition between romance and realism, but more closely related to the latter, appeared JM Machado de Assis, who in his novels like no other reflects his contemporary, and who had a unique literary position and in 1897 founded Academia Brasileira das Letras. Representatives of contemporary naturalism were Aluízio Azevedo and HM Coelho Neto. In poetry, two French-influenced schools flourished, the parnassists with Olavo Bilac and the symbolists with João da Cruz e Souza and Alphonsus de Guimaraens as the main names. More independent were the poet Augusto dos Anjos and the novelists AH Lima Barreto and Euclides da Cunha.

At the beginning of the 20th century, literary life in Brazil expanded very significantly. The number of readers and authors increased rapidly. But the artistic renewal had to wait for a couple of decades. JB Monteiro Lobato founded the first major Brazilian book publisher at this time. Previously, much of Brazil’s literature had been printed in Europe.

A famous week for modern art in São Paulo in 1922 led to a pervasive literary – and general cultural – innovation, marking the birth of Brazilian modernism. It was an expression of nationalism, not political but aesthetic, in this multicultural country, where European culture met civilizations at the Stone Age level, and where the influence of African cultures over time became great. The nationalism that had flourished hitherto had become increasingly rhetorical and alien to reality. Modernism combined an appetite for one’s own country and a sense of discovery, even when it came to its more distant parts, with literary achievements derived from Europe, such as Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism and Surrealism, to create an original, authentic Brazilian poem. A number of great writers, mainly poets, participated in this renewal: Mário de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade, Ronald de Carvalho, Manuel Bandeira, Jorge de Lima, Murilo Mendes, Cassiano Ricardo, Cecília Meireles and Carlos Drummond de Andrade. Thirty years after modernism a new avant-garde emerged in São Paulo, the concrete poetry, represented by the brothers Haroldo and Augusto de Campos and Décio Pignatari. These poets were also valuable discoverers of forgotten authorship in Brazil’s literature, e.g. the strange 19th century bald Sousândrade. Even more recent poets include João Cabral de Melo Neto. These poets were also valuable discoverers of forgotten authorship in Brazil’s literature, e.g. the strange 19th century bald Sousândrade. Even more recent poets include João Cabral de Melo Neto. These poets were also valuable discoverers of forgotten authorship in Brazil’s literature, e.g. the strange 19th century bald Sousândrade. Even more recent poets include João Cabral de Melo Neto.

Within the prose, the realistic tradition lived on, although it was further developed. Modernist poetry was largely a metropolitan phenomenon, while the novel often sought out the countryside and dealt with the oppression to which the poor were exposed. This literature has been particularly strong in Northeast Brazil with authors such as José Lins do Rego, Graciliano Ramos, Jorge Amado and Raquel de Queiroz. In southern Brazil there is a gaucho literature, but the main prose writer from there is more urban: Érico Veríssimo. This century’s great language innovator in Brazilian prose, João Guimarães Rosa, comes from the dehydrated plains of the state of Minas Gerais, which also constitutes the environment for his books.

After the first, most brutal years of the military dictatorship that began in 1964 and which was first discontinued in the early 1980’s, the Brazilian prose, while older writers such as Adonias Filho, Josué Montello and Herberto Sales, continued to exhibit an ever greater diversity and renewal with internationally acclaimed names such as Osman Lins, Clarice Lispector, Nélida Piñon, Antônio Callado, Renato Tapajós, Artur J. Poerner, Moacyr Scliar and Fernando Gabeira.

Drama and theater

The theater in Brazil has ancient, religious ancestry: the Jesuits used it to spread Catholic doctrine. However, it was only after the liberation in 1822 that a Brazilian theater emerged in the real sense with the playwright Martin Pena and – somewhat later – França Júnior. Artur Azevedo, brother of Aluízio Azevedo, is a central figure in Brazil’s theater history. He was behind the creation of the Teatro Municipal, the City Theater, in Rio de Janeiro in 1909. Several of the poets of modernism, including Mário de Andrade and Oswald de Andrade, wrote drama, but they had a hard time getting their violent attacks on civil society on stage. With Nelson Rodrigues came a theater in the 1940’s with a vivid spoken language and stirring and unpleasant topics.


The first films were recorded and presented by Vittori di Maio on May 1, 1897 at the Teatro Casino-Fluminense in Petrópolis, a resort near Rio de Janeiro. As early as 1894, however, Edison’s Kinetoscope, followed two years later by Lumières Cinématographe, came to Brazil’s metropolises. The same year as Di Maio’s recording, the first permanent cinemas opened.

Italian brothers and photographers Afonso and Paschoal Segreto recorded a series of news films and documentaries in 1898–1910, and compatriot Francisco Marzullo (1883–1933) directed what is considered the country’s first feature film: “Os Estranguladores” (1908). Other significant film pioneers were Antonio Leal (1876-1947), active primarily as a film photographer from 1903 until his death, and producer William Auler (1865-1927).

The years 1908-11 have gone to history as “bela époqa” in Brazilian film. It produced over 80 titles a year and dominated the domestic market with crime films and melodramas. Subsequently, production decreased radically in competition from Danish, Italian and American films. However, in the financially insecure film industry of Rio de Janeiro, Luiz de Barros (1893–1982) managed to make some 60 films in all genres from 1914 to 1980; best known, “Ubirajara” (1926) would be. More stable was the situation in São Paulo, where filmmakers such as Antonio Campos (1877–1959), Gilberto Rossi (1882–1971) and José Medina (1894–1980) were able to lock in their revenues from a burgeoning production of news, documentary and industrial films. for feature film projects.

Some talents preferred to seek happiness abroad, such as Alberto Cavalcanti (France and Great Britain) and Carmen Miranda (USA). The 1930’s-50’s were artistically lean decades. The company Atlantida dominated the 1940’s and 1950’s was characterized by Cinematografica Vera Cruz. Their productions tried to compete with Hollywood’s genre production with sporadic success. Among the few films that received international distribution are Lima Barretos (1906–82) “The Wild Men” (1953) and the Frenchman Marcel Camus (1912–82) “Orfeu Negro” (1959).

Two unique productions were the experimental filmmaker Mario Peixotos (1908–92) “Limites” (1931) and Humberto Mauros (1897–1983) “Ganga bruta” (1933). Both became role models for the director’s generation in the 1960’s within the formally and politically innovative movement Cinema Nôvo. Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Glauber Rocha and Carlos “Cacá” Diegues (born 1940)). Development slowed down soon after the military coup in 1964. Sharp censorship and persecution in the following years drove, among other things. Believe Rocha in exile. However, censorship was political rather than moral, and the B-movie production of mainly horror films and sex comedies flourished in the early 1970’s. However, even though the junta remained in 1985, control eased already around 1975, when primarily State Embrafilme became a whimsical but tolerant producer and distributor of films such as Bruno Barreto’s (born 1955) world success “Dona Flor and her two genuine men” (1976) and Carlos Diegues “Bye Bye Brasil” (1980). The biggest attention was paid to Héctor Babenco’s festival- praised “Pixote – the street’s child” (1981), which gave the director a Hollywood career.

The 1989 closure of Embrafilme caused an industry crisis, but with new tax legislation, the production curve reversed again around 1995. The same year, a Brazilian film was nominated for the first time in 30 years: Fábio Barretos (born 1957) “O Quatrilho”. It was followed by multiple award-winning films such as Walter Salle’s “Central do Brasil” (1998), Fernando Meirelles (born 1955) and Kátia Lund’s (born 1966) “The City of God” (2002) and Héctor Babenco’s “Carandiru” (2003). A controversial success was José Padhilos (born 1967) violent police film “Tropa de Elite” (2007; sequel 2010).

Today, Brazil is the ninth largest film market in the world, which has attracted American film companies to co-productions and from there recruited new regalia talents to Hollywood.


In present-day Brazil, no pre-colonial era developed, like those in the Andes and Central America. However, the ancient Native American cultures exhibit a high level of craftsmanship; There are examples of decorative ceramics, elegant wicker baskets, imaginative dance masks and abstract painting on animal skins. This tradition hardly influenced early colonial art. Instead, it brought with it ideas, style ideals and means of expression from Europe.

Throughout the 19th century, Brazilian art was still dependent on role models from Europe. An art academy was established early in the empire, and artists and architects derived their impulses mainly from Paris.

Around 1920, modern currents such as German expressionism and French cubism broke through. The main proponents were Lasar Segall, Tarsial do Amaral, Anita Malfatti and Alberto da Veiga Guignard. At the same time, interest in Native American cultures increased, thereby linking the older indigenous tradition to international modernism, as in Mexico. One of the most important artists of the 20th century was Cândido Torquato Portinari, who, in a religiously colored art with political undertones, described the social injustices. He worked with both stylized and realistic everyday motifs and with symbolic church embellishments. His wall mosaic is known at the São Francisco church in Belo Horizonte (designed by Oscar Niemeyer). Emiliano Augusto Cavalcanti also gained great importance.

The 1950’s were dominated by various concrete movements. The start of this era was the artist group Ruptres in São Paulo with artists such as Geraldo de Barros, Waldemar Cordeiro and Luiz Sacilotto. The group consisted of both poets and artists who had largely moved to Brazil. In Rio de Janeiro, in 1954 the group started Frente, with a more open and more experimental attitude to the concrete art. It was members from here who would later create what is considered to be the country’s real golden age, the neo-concrete movement between 1959 and 1963. What sets it apart from earlier concrete movements is that the spectator of the work becomes a participant rather than merely a viewer; the works are experienced with both body and intellect. The era includes Amilcar de Castro, Lygia Pape, Ivan Serpa and Franz Weissmann,

The military coup 1964 and the censorship laws 1968–78 meant a major change for the country’s art life. Many left-wing intellectuals were persecuted and found difficult to operate in the country. The São Paulo Biennial was boycotted for many years and several artists left the country. At the same time, art became a political tool and resistance to the military junta gave birth to enormous creativity among other things. Paulo Bruscky, Anna Maria Maiolino and the conceptual artists Antonio Dias, Anna Bella Geiger and Cildo Meireles. The conceptual art in Brazil was part of the international art scene but often more playful and not as theoretical as in Europe and the United States.

In the 1980’s, a return to more traditional artist material came, where Anna Bella Geiger, Carmela Gross, Guto Lacaz, Cildo Meireles and Tunga (really Antonio José de Barros Carvalho and Mello Mourão) got their breakthrough. It was not until the 1990’s that some of the experimental artists from the 1950’s-1970’s gained international recognition, for example. Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Pape. At the same time as an international focus on the contemporary Brazilian art scene in the early 2000’s, a new wave of more experimental artists in different genres came, such as Cao Guimarães, Vik Muniz, Ernesto Neto, Rivane Neuenschwander and Adriana Varejão.

Central to Brazilian and South American art life is the São Paulo Biennale, which has exhibited contemporary art from around the world every two years since 1951. In 1997 a small biennial started in Porto Alegre, Bienal do Mercosul, and in 2011 Rio de Janeiro received an art fair.


Through Brazil’s role as a Portuguese colony and later through immigration and influence from Europe and America, the country has been given a rich range of different building patterns and building styles.

During colonial times, Brazilian architecture was dominated by Portuguese Baroque and Rococo architecture. The construction business then had its center in São Salvador de Bahia and in the cities of Minas Gerais. Around the middle of the 18th century, the pinnacle of Brazilian baroque architecture was highlighted. Leading architect was Aleijadinho, and his best known works include the churches of São Francisco de Assis (1766–76) in Ouro Preto and Nosso Senhor do Bom Jesus de Matozinhos (1777–1805) in Congonhas do Campo with double towers and richly decorated west facades.

The neo-classicism of Brazilian architecture was introduced in the early 19th century by immigrant French architects. One of these was Auguste-Henri-Victor Grandjean de Montigny. designed the customs building (1819–36) and the market (1834–41) in Rio de Janeiro. Influenced by French classicism is also the Santa Isabel Theater in Recife (1840–46), designed by Louis-Léger Vauthier. In the early 1900’s, British architect Barry Parker worked as a city planner in São Paulo, where, following designs of English garden cities, built the suburb of Pacaembu (from 1917).

The pioneer of international modernism in Brazil was the Russian architect Gregori Warchavchik, who, after studying in Odessa and Rome, established himself in São Paulo in 1923. In 1925 he published a manifesto for modernist architecture.

The first significant architect of Brazilian modernism was Luiz Nunes, who designed several public buildings in the city of Refice. At Nunes’ initiative, Le Corbusier was invited to Brazil in 1929 and returned since 1936. He then participated as an idea-communicating consultant for a group of younger Brazilian architects who were commissioned to design the new building for the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro. The group, which was later called the Rio School, consisted of, among other things. by Lúcio Costa, Oscar Niemeyer and Affonso Eduardo Reidy as well as landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. The Ministry of Education and Health’s building was built in 1936–43 and became the beginning of a Brazilian building art of high international class. Good examples are the Palácio Cinema in São Paulo (1936) by Rino Levi,

Brazilian modernism reached its peak with the new capital of Brazil, planned on virgin land following Costa’s competition proposal in 1956 and with the most important buildings designed by Niemeyer. Recent architecture in Brazil is marked by the Museum of Modern Art (1954-60) in Rio de Janeiro by Reidy and a new cultural center in Brasilia (1972-80) by Sergio Bernardes.

The independent Brazilian architecture has recently been represented by João Figueiras Lima with buildings in Brazil and Salvador and Joaquim Guedes with a couple of villas in São Paulo.


Classical music

During colonial times, music in Bahia (current Salvador), Pernambuco (current Recife), Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo revolved primarily around the churches. Mulattas and blacks were prominent musicians during the interesting era in Minas Gerais during the 18th century, which is known as “mulatismo musical”. Towards the end of the century, the salon styles lundú and modinha began to emerge, with both African and Portuguese features.

During the empire (1808–89), the saloon musicianship and interest in Italian opera increased, mainly in the capital Rio. The Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Gomes (1836-96) achieved great success in Milan in 1870 with the opera “Il Guarany”, Italian in style but with a Brazilian theme. At about the same time, the choral music performed in small but popular groups, based on European dances, began to become important for the emerging musical nationalism.

Pianist Ernesto Nazareth (1863–1934) gave his saloon-like choros a genuine national expression, which in turn inspired Brazilian nationalism’s greatest name Heitor Villa-Lobos. In his huge production he has used various techniques, but without losing the national folk character. Famous are his “Bachianas Brasileiras” and his nine “Choros” for various instrument combinations, from solo guitar to large orchestra.

As national composers, Francisco Mignone (1897–1986) and Camargo Guarnieri (1907–93) are also usually considered. César Guerra Peixe’s (1914–93) music has been called “Twelfth Nationalism”, while Jorge Antunes (born 1942) works with, among other things, electronics and multimedia. João MacDowell (born 1965) expresses today’s eclecticism and pluralism, as he alternates genres as well as mixes art and popular musical features.

Folk and popular music

Folk and popular music has emerged from the mix of European and African styles. The mixture itself is an important part of the national self-image, while Brazil is culturally segregated both socially and geographically. Perhaps the most distinctive African music is found in the cultic candomblé tradition in Bahia, with roots in the Yoruba culture in present-day Nigeria. Typical Afro-Brazilian styles are côco, drama dance congada and battle dance capoeira. Samba de roda and ciranda are ring dances. More urban forms with roots in folk music are, for example, maxixe and baião, while the term sambacovers several mutually similar styles in different parts of Brazil. Most famous is the urban form, which is said to have begun in Rio de Janeiro in 1917 with Donga’s “Pelo Telefone”. From the outset, seen as slum music, the Samban was highlighted in the 1930’s as a symbol of the Brazilian in the creation of a national identity. Carmen Miranda, “the Brazilian bombing,” made Brazilian music internationally popular in Hollywood movies during the 1940’s. Out of Samban and influenced by jazz and art music, bossa nova emerged in the late 1950’s with Antônio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto as the main exponents.

In conjunction with the 1960’s military coup and the dictatorship that followed, a social consciousness and political commitment was aroused by many young singers and composers. These came to be associated with the broad term MPB, música popular brasileira. MPB artists include Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso (born 1942), Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento (born 1942) and Elis Regina (1945–82). Some MPBs also belonged to the radical cultural elite whose influential movement was called tropicália (or tropicalismo). In these, early modernism’s ideas of “cultural cannibalism” were renewed. The MPB designation is still used on artists and composers who have built on samba and bossa nova and introduced modern features of jazz, pop and rock. Some younger artists that can be considered MPB are Badi Assad (born 1966), Marisa Monte (born 1967) and Seu Jorge (born 1970).

Rock music began to gain audience in the late 1960’s and went in two directions – towards the critical of society, mainly represented by the group Os Mutantes (formed in 1966), and towards the more commercial, so-called iê-iê-iê music, whose big name was the singer Roberto Carlos (born 1941), who is still considered the best selling artist. Other prominent rock artists are singer Rita Lee (born 1947), art rock group Legião Urbana (formed in 1982) and hard rock band Sepultura (formed 1984).

During the 1970’s, soul and funk became popular with artists such as Tim Maia (1942-98) and Jorge Ben Jor (born 1945).

The underground style baile funk from Rio’s favela culture has very little to do with American funk and instead has features of hip hop and miami bass. Brazilian hip-hop is a great genre and has been used in social projects to curb widespread violence and crime. The political group Racionais MC’s (formed in 1988) is one of the most influential.

During the 1990’s, the multimedia movement developed manguebeat, with representatives such as the rock group Nação Zumbi (formed 1991). At the same time, electronic music was developed, which today is a pluralistic genre with features from both art and folk music. A central figure in its development was that of the Serbian musician and producer Suba (1961–99). The popular genre forró (which includes styles such as baião and côco) is played today in a variety of variations, of which the electrified dance band forrón is one of the most widespread. Forron’s most important name, however, is composer Luiz Gonzaga (1912–89), who broke through in the 1940’s as the Bay King. In the border between forró, jazz and other popular styles was the accordion virtuoso Sivuca (1930–2006) active – known to the Scandinavian audience through collaborations with, among others, Putte Wickman, Ulf Wakenius and Sylvia Vrethammar. A similar, even more experimental, multi-instrumentalist is Hermeto Pascoal (born 1936).

Typical Afro-Brazilian instruments are, above all, the different types of percussion, such as the conga drums, the double food source agogo, the scratch reco-reco, the musical arc berimbau and the friction drum cuica. Typical of the samba groups in Rio are also the drums surdo, tamborim and tambourine pandeiro. Cavaquinho is a small four-stringed guitar of Portuguese origin. The Forró groups in northeastern Brazil use accordion, drum and triangle.

Brazil Arts and Literature