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Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (1897-1976)
Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (1897-1976)


Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (1897-1976) Noemia signed 'Di Cavalcanti' lower left gouache and charcoal on paper 23¼ x 17in. (59 x 43.2cm.) Drawn in 1937
Acquired from the artist
By descent to the present owner

Lot Essay

Di Cavalcanti was one of the major exponents of Brazil's early modernist style. He created compositions in which the male or female figures harmoniously shared the space with the local landscape. Depicted in interior or exterior scenes, the figures usually dominate the pictorial space while the elements alluding to the local landscape appear framing the subjects. Modernist concerns in the relation of space and the figure where solved by Di Cavalcanti by using a light degradation of colour and the brush-stroke to define volume in mostly planar compositions while underlying the uniqueness of Brazilian culture through the symbolism attributed to the subjects depicted.

The present drawing executed circa 1937 is believed to be a portrait of Noemia, his first wife, who also modeled for the artist in many of his important composition. This particular drawing illustrates the power of Di Cavalanti's pictorial language as well as some references to modernist influences. The frontal figure reminds us of Picasso's classical period, yet her features, her nudity and her roundness symbolise Brazil's lushness. The woman is framed by a classical column to the left and by a classical male nude on the right. In the horizon a cargo ship seems to be sailing into the centre of the composition. These various elements again, remind the viewer of the Old World versus the New World, the idea of progress and the different races that compose Brazilian society. Finally the way the figures are framed in a balcony reflects on Di Cavalcanti's formal interest in Matisse's oeuvre.


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