André Durand

Paintings by André Durand

Born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1947, André Durand is a Canadian photographer and painter of Irish ancestry who works within the European Hermetic tradition. At the age of seventeen, he left Canada with his wife Ludmilla to emigrate to Europe. Through its history, Hermeticism was closely associated with the idea of a primeval, divine wisdom that was revealed to ancient sages. Hermeticism remains influential within esoteric Christianity, particularly in the  Christian mystical tradition of Maartinism. The anonymously written 1967 French tome “Meditations on the Tarot”, later edited and published by Robert Powell in 1980, summarizes the theory and practices of Christian Hermeticism.

Best known for his allegorical portraits of such figures as Princess Diane, Durand’s mythologically inspired paintings are the foundation of his work. These pieces display his deep understanding of the rituals and myths of both Christian and Classical traditions. Influenced by Michelangelo, Rubens and Titian, Durand tries to unite his religion with his art; however, he approaches the subject with the objective and philosophical criteria of a Neo-modernist. 

In 1970 André Durand painted a series of images inspired by the dancers of the British Royal Ballet. His 1972 portrait of Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen, whose work often bears heavily on the psychology of its characters, is housed in London’s National Portrait Gallery. Durand  has also received international acclaim for his official portraits of Pope John Paul II and the fourteenth Dalai Lama.

In 2000, Durand became artist in residence at London’s Kingston Upon Thames University. A major exhibition in 2006, entitled “Durand Wholly Pictures” and which covered six years of work, was displayed in churches and cathedrals in the county of Sussex. These works depicted devotional Christian narratives set in traditional  Sussex landscapes. In November of 2007, André Durand produced his oil on linen “Daniel in the Lions’ Den”; the sale of the painting and its limited edition prints benefited the Demelza Hospice Care for Children, a charity in Kent that provides support to life-limited children and their families.

After his return to Italy, André Durand visited the commune of Torre del Greco in Naples and the coastal town of Sperlonga, known for its sculptures and Roman sea grotto at the Villa of Tiberius. At the invitation of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Sperlonga, he opened a studio at the museum as artist in residence for two years. From 2010 to 2012, Durand began a series of round formal paintings on the subject of the Stations of the Resurrection, many of which contain the Grotto of Tiberius in the background.

Durand published several art photography volumes of his work in 2012. Most notable among them is the “Fotograf ando Statue per Anno”, an image collection of the statuary in Sperlonga’s National Archeological Museum. Containing text co-written by the museum’s director Marisa de’Spagnolls, this volume of sculptural work is the only comprehensive photographic archive of the museum’s collection. 

André Durand’s work has been featured in many solo exhibitions in Italy and England. These include, among others, “Frammenti Classici” in 1995 at London’s Archeus Fine Art; the 2000 “Soggetti Italianizzati” at the Galleria Albemarle in London; and “Via Lucis e Lagrime di San Pietro” at Galleria Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Durand’s work is in many private collections and the permanent collections of the Scottish National Gallery and London’s National Portrait Gallery. He currently lives and works in Sperlonga, Italy.

Images of André Durand’s work, a manifesto on Neo-modernism, enquiries for commissions, and contact information can be found at the artist’s site:

Second Insert Image: André Durand, “Saint Christopher Cynocephalus”, 2010, “Sacred” Series, Oil on Linen, 167.5 x 112 cm

Third Insert Image: André Durand, “Narcissus”, 2001, “Mythology” Series, Oil on Linen, 61 x 48 cm, Private Collection, Rome

Bottom Insert Image: André Durand, “Giordano Bruno Burning”, 2000, “Profane” Series, Oil on Linen, 203.2 x 167.6 cm

Candido Pontinari

The Paintings of Candido Portinari

Considered one of the most important Brazilian painters, Candido Portinari was a prominent and influential member of Brazil’s Neo-Realist movement. Producing more than five thousand canvases, Portinari’s  inspiration was rooted in his formative years spent with family on a Brodowski coffee plantation. He developed a social preoccupation throughout his work and was active in both the cultural and political worlds of Brazil.

Candido Portinari was born in December of 1903 in the Brodowski municipality of São Paulo, Brazil. He received formal education at the local school until 1912, when, at the age of nine, his family’s poverty forced his suspension of education. However, even at a young age, Portinari manifested an interest and aptitude in drawing and painting. At the age of fifteen, he assisted a visiting group of Italian painters and sculptors who had come to the area for the purpose of decorating  local small town churches. 

In 1919, Portinari moved to Rio de Janeiro with friends of his parents, the Toledo family, who owned a boarding house in the city. He enrolled in the Lyceum of Arts and Trades and, in the following year, at the National School of Fine Arts, where he regularly attended figure drawing classes. Portinari exhibited his work for the first time in 1922 and received an Honorable Mention for his portrait of classmate Ezequel Fonseca Filho. At this time he became one of the first Brazilian artists to incorporate Modernist elements in his work, which would feature in all future work.

 In 1924 Candido Portinari submitted eight works to the selection panel of the National School of Fine Arts, of which the panel chose his seven portraits for the exhibition. A pivotal point in his career occurred in 1928 with the presentation of twelve works at the 35th General Exhibition of Fine Arts. For his oil portrait of poet and diplomat Olegário Mariano, he won the European Travel Prize and achieved recognition in the press. 

After a solo exhibition of twenty-five portraits at the Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, Portinari traveled to Paris, settling in the artist haven of Montparnasse. He visited museums in Europe and met other artists working in the various trends of Modernism, mostly drawn to the styles of Cubism and Surrealism. In 1930, Portinari participated in a group exhibition of Brazilian art at the Exposition d’Art Brésilien in Paris, where he entered two works, a still life and a portrait. While in Paris, he met Maria Victoria Martinelli, a nineteen year old Uruguayan, who would become his lifelong companion. 

Portinari decided, during this Parisian stay, that the prominent subject of his work would be the colorful people and landscapes in his Brodowski homeland. Returning to Brazil with Martinelli in 1931, he began a prolific period of work as an artist. In a 1932 solo exhibition at the Palace Hotel promoted by the Brazilian Artists Association, Portinari presented over sixty works. For the first time, the artist showed paintings with Brazilian themes, primarily scenes from his childhood, circus themes, and scenes of circle games. 

Portinari painted his first work with a social theme “The Evicted” in 1934; in the same year, his portraiture work “Mestizo” was purchased by the Pinacoteca de São Paulo and became the first of his paintings to be included in a public institution. At the invitation of Celso Kelly whose portrait he had painted in 1926, Portinari was hired in 1935 to teach mural and easel painting at the Art Institute of the Federal District University in Rio de Janeiro. Between 1935 and 1940, Portinari produced several major works, which portrayed the Brazilian spirit with all its hardships, but also its strengths, hard work and independence. 

Candido Portinari’s 1935 “Coffee”, a large painting depicting the hard-working coffee harvesters and baggers, was entered into the Carnegie Institute exhibition and won Second Honorable Mention. Portinari produced four large panels for the Art Deco-designed Monument Via Dutra, which celebrated the construction of the Rio-São Paulo motorway. These interior murals were the first of his works on the themes of socialism and nationalism.He also created exterior mosaic panels and twelve fresco murals for the Modernist-designed Gustavo Capanema Palace.

In the years that followed, Portinari’s work gained greater recognition in the United States. In 1939 he painted three panels, “Northeastern Rafts”, “Gaúcha Scene”, and “Night of Saint John”, for the interior of the Brazilian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. Impressed by the paintings, Alfred H. Barr, then director of the New York’s MOMA, showcased Portinari’s work in a solo exhibition at the museum, a first time for a Brazilian artist. This led to a commission by the Library of Congress to create murals to decorate its magnificent Hispanic Reading Room.

In the 1940s, Candido Portinari turned to politics, becoming a full member of the Brazilian Communist Party, and ran for congress and senate twice, but was defeated narrowly. In 1947 he left for exile in Uruguay where he was to stay until 1951 when, benefitting from a thaw in government persecution, he returned to Brazil for the rest of his life. It was in 1952 that Portinari started his best known work, the grandiose double mural “Guerra e Paz (War and Peace)”, commissioned by the Brazilian government as a gift to the United Nations, to be displayed in the United Nations’s newly built headquarters in New York City.

These panels are Portinari’s masterpiece and one of the most recognizable pieces of Brazilian art. Measuring individually an imposing 46 by 32 feet, Portinari sought to encapsulate in this work the hopes and fears that the newly founded organization represented to a world reeling from the horrors of the Second World War. He worked on the project for four years and produced one hundred-eighty sketches to complete his two-paneled mural. The dark-blue, purple and red palette of the “War” tableau contrasts starkly with the lighter yellow tones of its companion “Peace”, offering all its viewers a reminder of the peace mission of the United Nations.

For the completion of this monumental project, Portinari sacrificed his own health. During the long process of creating the two panels, Portinari became increasingly sick due to the toxicity of the paint fumes he inhaled while painting the panels. Dedicated to complete the two murals, he finished his work in 1956; however, he suffered from health issues, showing symptoms of lead poisoning, throughout the last decade of his life. Candido Portinari died on February 6, 1962 due to contact with the paint. His dedication to his work at the expense of his health made him even more of a legend among the people of Brazil, a martyr to art and the cause of equality.

Top Insert Image: Paulo Rossi Osir, “Candido Portinari”, 1935, Oil on Canvas, Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo:  Second Insert Image: Candido Portinari, “Flautista”, 1957, Oil on Canvas,  41 x 50 cm, Private Collection;  Third Insert Image: Candido Pontinari, “Mastiço”, 1934, Oil on Canvas, Pinacoteca de São Paulo:   Bottom Insert Image: Candido Portinari, “Guerra e Paz (War and Peace”, 1952-1956, Dyptch in Oil on Six-Sheet Cedar Plywood, Each Panel: 14.32 x 10.66 meters, United Nations General Assembly, New York City