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Handwritten letter from Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (1939)

Handwritten letter from Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (1939)

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"I didn't sell much and I couldn't pay off a debt. There were many compliments, but not only does man live on glory…"

Unpublished handwritten letter from Emiliano Di Cavalcanti to a friend. In Portuguese. A leaf. 19cm x 25.7cm. Paris, January 1, 1939. Good condition. Single piece.

letter transcript

Paris, January 1, 1939

my old friend

This is the first letter of 1939… Another year of this painful existence that God has given me. Finally, you live. I write to you at half past midnight [in] a cafe, next to the Radio and that is why / the paper is horrible. Which will bring me 1939. I don't know, nor do I want to / predict. 1938 ended with an exhibition of mine. I sold little and I was not able to pay a debt. There were many compliments, but / not only does man live on glory... / His letters are scarce, which never ceases to annoy me, / because I think of a million things. I believe however that you are in good health and that nothing has happened to Ignez. / I am very tired. This stupid Radio job is killing me and I need something else, which is hard to come by. / Sometimes I miss Brazil a lot. On the days of / great cold weather, I only remember me[u] Paquetá, that heat there. / Noemia is going to live separately from me tomorrow, she rented a studio / and is very happy. I hope she is happy and works / a lot in the new house. / This letter is to wish you a Happy New Year. You are the / only friend from Brazil who remembers me / I have the impression that outside of you no one else in Brazil knows / that I exist I hug Ignez and […]

Yours / Di Cavalcanti (signed)

There will not be a Brazilian among the 200 million that populate the country who does not know the name of Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (1897 - 1976). The great modernist painter, who illustrated the colors of Brazil and popularized national art around the world, is still present in the popular imagination, but what was the life of the man behind the prestigious artist like? After all, Cavalcanti also went through times of war, longing and melancholy.

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1897, Di Cavalcanti, still young, approached paints and brushes making illustrations for Fon Fon magazine. In 1916, he moved to São Paulo to study law, but soon began to visit the studio of impressionist George Fischer Elpons. From then on, he never left the canvases again, idealized the Modern Art Week at the Municipal Theater of São Paulo, joined the communist party, married the painter Noêmia Brandão, and, finally, settled in Paris, in the troubled decade from 1930.

However, the stay in the City of Light seems not to have been a smooth sea for the artist, a secret he revealed in an intimate letter written to a friend. In his own words, Cavalcanti says that his work on a radio at that time tired and bored him. The great painter also states that, at the beginning of that year, he had an immense debt that worried him and made him not have good expectations regarding 1939. Little did he know that that would be his last year in France, since, with the At the beginning of World War II, Di would return to Brazil for one of the most fertile phases of his career as a painter.

Back in his homeland, Cavalcanti would openly combat abstractionism, travel to Uruguay and Argentina, exhibiting in the city of Buenos Aires, and meet Zuília, who would become one of his favorite muses, in addition to illustrating books by renowned figures such as Vinícius de Moraes and Jorge Amado. He would still return to Paris in 1946 to look for some of his missing paintings, but, after the Second World War, this would already be a new world.

However, still at the end of the 1930s, Cavalcanti mentions, in his missive, how he misses Brazil and the warmth of his Paquetá; and he also reveals that his wife, Noêmia, would move into a studio even if they were still married. The artist wishes him happiness, but did he feel lonely?

The beginning of 1939 was certainly a difficult time for the great artist, marked by nostalgia, melancholy and doubts. Finally, Di Cavalcanti returned to Brazil to soon conquer the world again, teaching that, sometimes, a step back is also a step forward, and, mainly, showing that life is made of movements, sometimes linear, but mostly commuting, a coming and going that often lacks meaning or explanation for those who navigate its waves, but always follows its destiny.

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