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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Pedro Américo

Independence or Death, 1888, Pedro Américo
The Arab Fiddler, 1884,
Pedro Américo
I've written a few times before regarding what we've come to call the "Renaissance Man." They are few and far between. Leonardo fits that description, as do Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Pushkin, and per-haps one or two individuals from the history books of most countries. These are men, and in a few cases, women, who are so outstanding in the many fields making up the arts and sciences that it's difficult to decide which of their talents to lift above others. The nation of Brazil has one such Renaissance man--Pedro Américo. He was a novelist, poet, scientist, art theorist, essayist, philosopher, politician, pro-fesssor, but is best remembered as one of Brazil's most important academic painters.
Peace and Concord, 1894, Pedro Américo
Pedro Américo was a Brazilian painter born in 1843. Strangely enough, for a man of such historic importance, I could find no reliable reference as to where he was born; but we can probably assume it was somewhere in Brazil. One of the most important painters of Brazilian history, he was the painter of the massive Cry of Ipiranga, an alternate title for Independence or Death! (top). The painting now hangs in the Museum of Ipiranga. Americo also painted the Battle of Avai (bottom), and Peace and Concord (above), and Battle of Campo Grande (below), among others.
Battle of Campo Grande, 1871, Pedro Américo
Pedro II of Brazil,
Pedro Américo
Pedro Américo was the son of guitarist Eduardo de Figueiredo and Lesley Cirne. In 1854, at the age of eleven, he went to Rio de Janeiro, studying at Col gio Pedro II. In 1856 he joined the Imperial Academy of fine arts. He received from Pedro II, a scholarship at the school of fine arts in Paris, in 1859. There he studied under the legendary academic painter, Jean-Auguste Ingres. Américo returned to Brazil in 1864, but soon after returned to Europe, where, at the University of Brussels, he received the title of Doctor of Sciences. The following year, in Port-ugal, he married Charlotte of Ara jo Porto Al-egre, daughter of the Brazilian consul in Lisbon. The couple had three children. During this per-iod he painted the portraits of Pedro I, and Pedro II as well as the Duque de Caxias.
Pedro Americo's skill as a portrait artist is plainly visible
in the pencil self-portrait on the left just above. He appears
to have been about twelve years old at the time.
Returning to Brazil, in 1888, Américo produced his most well-known work of art: Independence or Death!, depicting the moment when Prince Peter declared the country independent from Portugal. The painting has illustrated elementary school history books Brazil for decades. Although considered a Brazilian painter, Pedro Américo and his family lived mostly in Florence, Italy, but traveling extensively back and forth from Rio de Janeiro. During this time he managed to work also as a lecturer and an art historian. Américo was knighted by the German Crown and was also a Great Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher. With the founding proclamation of the Republic in Brazil in 1889, he was elected a deputy of the National Assembly. Pedro Américo died in Florence, in 1905 at the age of sixty-two.

Battle of Avaí, painted 1872-79, Pedro Américo
This gives you some idea of the massive scale of
Americo's battle scenes.


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