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Cannibal Angels

Transatlantic Modernism and the Brazilian Avant-Garde


Kenneth David Jackson

In the first three decades of the twentieth century, artists, writers, musicians, and architects from both sides of the Atlantic interacted to create a modern style for Brazil. Their works shaped Brazilian national expression and self-definition for the twentieth century and into the present, with renewed relevance as Brazil plays an increasingly important role in global affairs. Artists such as Tarsila do Amaral and Roberto Burle-Marx are appearing for the first time in museums in the United States and Europe, along with the concept of antropofagia from the «Cannibal Manifesto», a theory of cultural autonomy and a model for fusion, hybridity, and assimilation. This book offers a cultural history and interpretation of Brazilian modernism in the arts and letters, exploring how modernism depends on transatlantic negotiation and develops through interchanges between Brazilians and Europeans.
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CHAPTER 5: Transatlantic Exchange: Brazilians in Europe / Europeans in Brazil


Most of them were itinerant Brazilians,

people who had weekly longings for Europe

– Pagu 04.01.46

Until the entire ocean

Curdled with transatlantic liners

– Oswald de Andrade, história pátria

Carts in the street, transatlantic liners at sea …

– Mário de Andrade

In the first three decades of the twentieth century, young Brazilian modernist artists continued a network of transatlantic crossings and European encounters, a prominent feature of colonial Brazilian life that accelerated during the Empire. Transatlantic crossings are prominent in the last novel by Machado de Assis, Counselor Ayres’ Memorial (1908); the recently married couple Fidelia and Tristan sail away to Lisbon without plans to return, leaving behind their native land and adoptive parents, who are left in a state of melancholy. The couple’s voyage foreshadows those of modernists who will depart to develop or practice their arts in Europe, where a sudden awareness of their estrangement from Brazilian life often overtakes them. On reading news from Brazil, a diplomat stationed abroad writes that ‘everything that I read causes an impact on the ←187 | 188→fibres of my heart. And something remains there, perhaps an afflicted longing, something that keeps beating its wings like a nervous little bird in a rib cage’.1 Even before Machado’s characters sail, at the beginning of the century Brazilian modernists are being educated in France, as are painter Toledo Piza and the sisters Vera and Adriana Janacopulos. Vera,...

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