The term Modernismo relates to a period in Brazilian culture between the late 1910s and the late 1930s. It involved a loose gathering of artists and writers who expressed the desire to be up-to-date with European developments at the same time as reacting against the local conservative and provincial environment.
In Brazil the predominant interpretation of Modernismo has viewed it as a necessary but tentative stage in the drive for the cultural emancipation of the nation. Such a conclusion is reached by comparing Modernismo to the consensual interpretation of modern art: namely an autonomous ‘universalising' language that naturally tended towards abstraction. More recently, the concept of Anthropophagy – developed by the poet and art critic Oswald de Andrade, who equated the absorption of the European modern aesthetics by the modernistas with the cannibalism of the Brazilian natives – has been largely accepted in Europe and North America as an early example of the strategic appropriation within the field of contemporary art.
This paper investigates the relation between painting and art writing during the 1920s – particularly through the influence of the Journal L’Esprit Nouveau on the São Paulo group – to argue that it was neither the case of an alternative and incomplete modernism nor that of being before its time, but that the strategies adopted by Modernismo coincided with contemporaneous European regionalist factions and the return to figuration within the context of the Rappel a L’Ordre.