Behold the Beautiful Designs of Brazil’s 1920s Art Deco Magazine, Para Todos

Art Nou­veau, Art Deco… these are terms we asso­ciate not only with a par­tic­u­lar peri­od in history—the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry and the ensu­ing jazz-age of the 20s—but also with par­tic­u­lar locales: Paris, New York, L.A., Lon­don, Vien­na, or the Jugend­stil of Weimar Munich. We prob­a­bly do not think of Rio de Janeiro. This may be due to bias­es about the priv­i­leged loca­tion of cul­ture, such that most peo­ple in Europe and North Amer­i­ca, even those with an arts edu­ca­tion, know very lit­tle about art from “the colonies.”

But it is also the case that Brazil had its own mod­ern art move­ment, one that strove for a dis­tinct­ly Brazil­ian sen­si­bil­i­ty even as it remained in dia­logue with Europe and the U.S. The move­ment announced itself in 1922, the cen­ten­ni­al of the South Amer­i­can nation’s inde­pen­dence from Por­tu­gal.

In cel­e­bra­tion, artists from São Paulo held the Sem­ana de Arte Mod­er­na, sev­en days in which, the BBC writes, they “con­struct­ed, decon­struct­ed, per­formed, sculpt­ed, gave lec­tures, read poet­ry and cre­at­ed some of the most avant-garde works ever seen in Brazil.”

1922 also hap­pened to be the year that a Rio de Janeiro-born artist, illus­tra­tor, and graph­ic design­er who went by the name J. Car­los (José Car­los de Brito e Cun­ha) took over the direc­tion of the mag­a­zine Para Todos. Found­ed in 1918, the mag­a­zine began as a film rag, and its cov­ers faith­ful­ly fea­tured pho­to spreads of movie stars. But in 1926, Car­los, who had already proven him­self a “major tal­ent in Brazil­ian Art Deco graph­ic design,” writes Messy Nessy, began draw­ing his own cov­er illus­tra­tions, and he con­tin­ued to do so for the next four years, as well as draw­ing thou­sands of car­toons and writ­ing vaude­ville plays and sam­ba lyrics.

His work clear­ly draws from Euro-Amer­i­can sources, includ­ing sev­er­al unfor­tu­nate racial car­i­ca­tures. But it also intro­duces some unique­ly Brazil­ian ele­ments, or unique­ly Car­los-ian ele­ments, that seem almost pro­to-psy­che­del­ic (we might imag­ine a jazz-age Os Mutantes accom­pa­ny­ing these trip­py designs).  J. Car­los was a pro­lif­ic artist who “col­lab­o­rat­ed in design and illus­tra­tion in all the major pub­li­ca­tions of Brazil from the 1920s until the 1950s.” In all, it’s esti­mat­ed that he left behind over 100,000 illus­tra­tions. So devot­ed was Car­los to the art and cul­ture of his native city that he appar­ent­ly turned down an invi­ta­tion by Walt Dis­ney to work in Hol­ly­wood.

Print mag­a­zine describes Car­los’ work as “a cross between Aubrey Beard­s­ley and John Held Jr.,” and while there is no short­age of the wil­lowy, doll-like flap­pers, elon­gat­ed, elfin fig­ures, and intri­cate, spi­dery pat­terns we would expect from this deriva­tion, Car­los is also doing some­thing very dif­fer­ent from either of those artists—or real­ly from any­one work­ing in the North­ern Hemi­sphere. He has since become a hero­ic fig­ure for Brazil­ian artists and schol­ars, inspir­ing an exten­sive web project, a visu­al the­sis on Issuu, and two recent doc­u­men­tary films (all in Por­tuguese), which you can find here.

In 2009, Car­los received a posthu­mous hon­or that prob­a­bly would have thrilled him in life, a trib­ute song by the Académi­cos da Rocin­ha sam­ba club. Lis­ten to it here and find sev­er­al more of Car­los’ Para Todos cov­ers at Messy Nessy, Print, and the Brazil­ian blog Os cam­in­hos do Jour­nal­is­mo.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load Hun­dreds of Issues of Jugend, Germany’s Pio­neer­ing Art Nou­veau Mag­a­zine (1896–1940)

Down­load Influ­en­tial Avant-Garde Mag­a­zines from the Ear­ly 20th Cen­tu­ry: Dadaism, Sur­re­al­ism, Futur­ism & More

Oscar Wilde’s Play Salome Illus­trat­ed by Aubrey Beard­s­ley in a Strik­ing Mod­ern Aes­thet­ic (1894)

Har­ry Clarke’s 1926 Illus­tra­tions of Goethe’s Faust: Art That Inspired the Psy­che­del­ic 60s

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (5) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (5)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.