Milton Dacosta (Brazilian 1915-1988)
FROM THE COLLECTION OF DR. LUIZ BETHOVEN DO AMARAL
Milton Dacosta (Brazilian 1915-1988)

Figura

Details
Milton Dacosta (Brazilian 1915-1988)
Figura
signed 'Dacosta' (upper right) signed again, titled and dated 'M. Dacosta, FIGURA, 1954' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
21¾ x 18 1/8 in. (55.2 x 46 cm.)
Painted in 1954.
Provenance
Acquired from the artist.

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Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza

Lot Essay

"The constructivist cycle has ended," Dacosta declared in an interview with Frederico Morais, explaining the figurative turn that his work took in the 1960s. "The period of squares required a certain discipline. Like the housewife who wants to keep the house always neat. It requires effort. At that time, order for me was something natural, a way of being....Today my painting has to do with the importance of the human side of art. Discipline can't go against liberty."[1]

Dacosta's later-career recuperation of the figure harks back to his work of the 1930s and 1940s, a period during which he gained fluency in the languages of modern painting. As a teenager, he co-founded the Núcleo Bernardelli, a group of young artists that sought to consolidate the early achievements of modern art in Rio de Janeiro. Drawing at first on the formal principles of Cézanne and the School of Paris, Dacosta produced a diverse body of work during these years that spanned nudes, landscapes, and portraiture. The first geometricized figures appeared around 1941, made under the newer (and brief) influence of Pittura Metafisica and Giorgio de Chirico. Dacosta continued to engage human subjects even through his most rigorously constructivist phase of the 1950s, rendering bodies through flattened, modular blocks of color outlined by his characteristic black line (notably, in a number of paintings titled Figure with Hat). The austere, geometric abstractions of this period have lately received renewed scholarly attention, owing in part to their proximity to the rise of Concrete art in Brazil, but Dacosta has long been recognized for his paintings of female figures.

"With his eye always turned inwards, Milton returns to the feminine figure in the mid-1960s," his son Alexandre has explained. "Nudes, rounded, with transparent or draped garments; the surface, misty like the dawn, becomes transcendent."[2] The present work belongs to the series of Venuses and women that Dacosta painted during this time, which mediate the asceticism of his constructivist works with the sensuality and amorous languor of the body. The persistence of geometric values is seen here, for example, in the circular breasts and bilateral line dividing the figure's torso. Yet Dacosta's woman expresses a comely serenity shaped by the visual pleasures of curvilinear form, shown suggestively in the flowing tresses that drape across her shoulders and in the slight tilt of her gently rounded, somnolescent face.


Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

1 Milton Dacosta, quoted in Alexandre Franco Dacosta, "Milton Dacosta: Intimate Infinite Movement," in Ronaldo Brito, Guilherme Bueno and Sonia Salcedo, eds., Art in Brazil: 1950-2011 (Brussels: Europalia International, 2011), 65.
2 Dacosta, "Milton Dacosta," 67.
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