The Embassy of Brazil in London proudly presents Oswaldo Goeldi: Cena Urbana. The show, curated by Paulo Venancio Filho, will feature a selection of 22 woodcut prints that reveal a subterranean vision of the city of Rio de Janeiro’s urban scenes and anonymous individuals by one of the greatest Brazilian modern artists.
Oswaldo Goeldi was the son of the eminent Swiss natularist Émil Goeldi (1859-1917), one of the many scientists that Emperor Dom Pedro II was involved with during his reign. While Goeldi was studying in Switzerland during the First World War, he was influenced by the group Der Blaue Reiter and became acquainted with the works of Alfred Kubin (1877-1859), with whom he would correspond to the end of his life.
Although still not acclaimed internationally, Goeldi’s oeuvre awakens immediate interest in those that come in contact with his drawings and engravings as they reveal a singular vision of Brazil, captured through an expressionistic sensitivity, rather infrequent in Brazilian art. Goeldi was a rare case, perhaps unique, of an expressionist in the tropics.
The exhibition shows the Goeldian vision of a Brazilian reality that is quite distant from the commonplace postcard image of a mythical tropical nation. This sombre world, which Goeldi expresses through the black and white contrast of xylography, fulfils the power of a plastic idiom that matches his work to that of German Expressionists.
Brazilian modern art has recently been gaining rightful international acclaim, in particular the great constructive period in Brazilian art as illustrated by Neoconcretism and its artists. This fact is now well established and it is time to advance further and focus upon other artists that, despite pursuing differing poetics, have the same stature and importance, such as Oswaldo Goeldi. By revealing various aspects of Brazilian Modernism, which is both sufficiently original and complex, this exhibition corroborates the fact that it cannot be exhausted in a single version. Very aptly, the show follows the special nucleus dedicated to Goeldi’s work at the 29th São Paulo Biennial (2010) and celebrates the artist in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of his death.
All works in the exhibition kindly loaned by Raul Schmidt Felippe Jr.
Oswaldo Goeldi was born in Rio de Janeiro on 31 October 1895. At six years of age, Goeldi moved with his family to Switzerland, where he began school in Berne. When the First World War broke out he was a student at the Academiae Technicae Helveticae in Zurich. He joined the Swiss army, serving as a guard on the Swiss-Austrian border. After his father’s death in 1917, Goeldi enrolled in the École des Arts et Métiers, Geneva, where he studied for six months. He exhibited for the first time at the Wyss Gallery in Berne, where he had close contact with the work of Alfred Kubin, during the presentation of the Der Blaue Reiter Group.
In 1919 he returned to Brazil, and in 1926 he began to correspond with Kubin. In 1930 he visited Kubin at his home in the town of Zwickledt, Austria, and in the same year exhibited at the Gutekunst & Klipstein Gallery, Berne, and – having been recommended by Kubin – at the Werthein Gallery, where his works were displayed alongside those of Matisse and Utrillo. In 1951 Goeldi received the First National Engraving Prize at the 1st São Paulo Biennial and in 1953 was appointed engraving professor at the School of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro. His work was exhibited extensively, both in Brazil and abroad. He died on 15 February 1961 in Rio de Janeiro.
Paulo Venancio Filho is an art critic, independent curator and full professor of art history at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He has published articles on modern and contemporary Brazilian artists, among them Cildo Meireles, Hélio Oiticica, Anna Maria Maiolino, Waltercio Caldas, Mira Schendel, Antonio Manuel and Fernanda Gomes. He has curated a number of exhibitions in Brazil and abroad, including Rio de Janeiro 1950-1964 in Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis (Tate Modern, 2001), Rachel Whiteread (MAM, Rio de Janeiro, 2003), Soto: A Construção da Imaterialidade (CCBB, Rio de Janeiro, 2005), Anna Maria Maiolino: Territories of Immanence (Miami Art Central, 2006), Time and Place: Rio de Janeiro 1954:1964 (Moderna Museet, 2008), Hot Spots (Kunsthaus Zurich, 2009), Wifredo Lam- Gravuras (Caixa Cultural, Rio de Janeiro, 2010), David Batchelor: Chromophilia (Paço Imperial, Rio de Janeiro, 2010) and Sergio Camargo: Claro Enigma (IAC, São Paulo, 2010).