The prospector’s hand

Bianco had been in Brazil for six months when painter Paulo Rossi invited him to observe a work of art on which Portinari was working at the Ministry of Education. He arrived, but only to find three of Portinari’s assistants working at the site. They were: Burle Marx (1909-1994), Inês and Ruben Cassa (1905).

Noticing that they were having trouble enlarging the hand of a prospector in a fresco, he asked their permission to let him try. With their approval, Bianco painted the detail.

Soon afterwards, Portinari arrived and, with the intuition of a master, noticed the interference. Annoyed, he asked: «Who did that hand over there?» His assistants pointed to Bianco, who was over in a corner, to whom the master apparently paid little or no attention.

If Bianco could have anticipated this, he would never have been there. But as he was already there, he decided to stay and enjoy the progress of the work. By noon, he had decided to go home. When he was bidding farewell, Portinari asked with his typical energy: «Are you really leaving?» «Yes, I am going home», answered Bianco.

The master shook his hand, with the same statement of anger in his face, and asked: «But you will be back tomorrow, won’t you?»

This is how the young painter was gradually incorporated into Portinari’s team and went on to become a most valued collaborator for many, many years.

The «prospector’s hand», Bianco’s first collaborative effort in the paintings of the master, is still there where it was originally painted. And Portinari’s influence over Bianco’s own paintings can be seen in many of his works. The painter grew, built his own career, but never departed from the style he had assimilated and learned to respect.

Barred from the party

If, on the one hand, the relationship between Bianco and Portinari was reason for pride and admiration, then, on the other hand, it caused problems, basically due to the aversion of some Brazilian politicians towards Portinari’s political positions and ideology. Although the master was not an activist, the fact that Portinari showed some sympathies toward communism made him, as well as his followers, targets for political persecution.

In 1960, Mexico was organizing its 2nd Biennial Art Exhibition and, wishing to include some Brazilian artists, sent a representative to Brazil. Among other artists, he invited Enrico Bianco, and commissioned him three new works that were to be specially painted for the event.

Once Itamarati had offered to pay the expenses of the journey, it also saw as its right to examine the list of artists who had been invited for the exhibition. Authorities removed Bianco from the list based on the allegation that he had been born in Italy and, therefore, could not represent Brazilian art.

This pervasive aversion to the painter could not be hidden. Bianco was born in Italy, but became famous in Brazil, along with one of the greatest Brazilian masters. His themes were of our land, our people, and our habits. Author Rubem Braga attempted to defend him in an article published in the Manchete magazine:

«I’ve seen the pictures. They are better than I expected, and would be considered good modern paintings both inside and outside the country. They are the work of a painter who was formed in Brazil and who is sensitive to the suggestions and feelings of Brazilian life. They are, thus, excellent pictures and would represent Brazil quite well at any international art exhibition. I’ve seen them; critics can not argue with me, for they have not seen them.»

It did not help. When the State interferes with art, it is never to the latter’s advantage. Nor the artist’s.

The most Brazilian of all Italians

Enrico Bianco was born in Rome on July 18th, 1918. He came to Brazil while still young and developed his artistic skills amongst the effervescence of the Brazilian Modernist movement, which was inaugurated in 1921, in Rio de Janeiro, and then gained momentum with the Modern Art Week in 1922, in São Paulo.

In Brazil, Bianco lived side by side with great Brazilian masters, such as Cândido Portinari, of whom he was a disciple; Bianco was a close friend of Burle Max and was openly praised by famous personalities in the art world, including Antônio Bento and Pietro Maria Bardi.

Bianco chose Brazil as his second home and settled there for the rest of his life, developing there most of his work under the undeniable influences of Brazilian artists, and, therefore, showing the life and habits of Brazilian society. He can thus be considered a true Brazilian painter.

Text by Paulo Victorino


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