Paulista Gallery

outsider art of Brazil

Outsider Art of Brazil

Popular art of Brazil

Arte Popular do Brasil


Brazilian Outsider Art

King-Frog, ceramic, Zé Maria, Vale do Jequitinhonha, Minas Gerais, $ 1,500.00


Viuva da Seca II, ceramic, Maria Negreiro, Vale do Jequitinhonha, Minas Gerais, $ 140.00

Lagarto Moreno, ceramic, Adriano Rosa, Vale do Jequitinhonha, Minas Gerais, $ 450.00


Brazilian Indigenous people believe that clay bears a woman’s spirit as it comes from the Earth and Earth is believed to be a woman.

Vale do Jequitinhonha, was once a thriving indigenous area rich in minerals and a special type of clay which the women used to make utilitarian objects.

The area was heavily mined by Portuguese colonizers with the help of African labour and as a result, long periods of drought started to occur. The local muddy soil proved infertile forcing working men to leave home and family behind in search for agricultural work in other rural areas or to simply try their luck in the big cities of the country.

Jequitinhonha’s social ecosystem crumbled and the women, now without partners and facing the challenge of survival, drew on their only two resources - their imagination and their clay.

Dreams, isolation, struggle and faith were morphing into a surreal state of mind, when magical zoomorphic and anthropomorphic creatures enter their fantastic minds to become materialized in ceramic works.

The careful coiffed hair and adornments tell the times of abundance, pride and femininity; the serene and adamant eyes portray hope and the unshaken power of their faith; their animal bodies signify their inner strength or mirror their primal living condition.

The hybridism, history and iconography embedded in their ceramic work achieved attention by the public at large. They were part of the exhibition Brésil Arts Populaires at Grand Palais in Paris in 1987 and today they are collected by many museums and private collectors in Brazil.

Some of the men who had left Vale do Jequitinhonha have returned to help the women with their art making, which has turned out to be more profitable than the work they had gone away to search.

Wood-Cut Prints and “String Literature”

Wood cut prints, at the start of the 20th century, was an important form of popular art making in the Northeast Region of Brazil. The art - called “Literatura de Cordel”, which translates from the Portuguese as “Literature on a String”- are booklets made from woodcut prints which are hung on a string with a peg and sold on the streets of the country’s Northeast as a way to propagate the news, folk stories and songs. The artist, who creates the story, makes the illustration, carves it on the wood, prints it on paper and also sings the story to bystanders.

Jose Francisco Borges or J. Borges, born in 1935 in Pernambuco, is one of the most expressive woodcutters in the country. His work is made with an imaginative simplicity appropriated from the African and the Modernist aesthetics; their narrative is playful and carry perceivable musicality.

J.Borges’s work has been exhibited in Japan, in the Louvre in Paris and in the Smithsonian Museum in New York. He has over 200 titles published which includes the calendar of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

To know more about J. Borges watch a documentary here