This is the sharpest, most perceptive review among those published in the O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper in 1913 that merely documented or analyzed the exhibition of works by Lasar Segall, which this reviewer considered to be the earliest examples of Brazilian modern art. The author, poet, journalist, and art critic Abílio Álvaro Miller (1872–1928) briefly discusses the artist’s depiction of suffering people under the searing, deforming influence of expressionist elements which are increasingly visible in Segall’s work. Miller writes that “the painter uses mask-like faces and body language to illustrate painful, indifferent, or happy gestures that arise from his inner self.” The paintings also reflect the extremely politicized humanism at the heart of the expressionist movement in Dresden as expressed by the group Die Brücke [The Bridge, 1905–13], whose members included Ernst Kirchner (1880−1938) and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884–1976), among others. As distinct from the group’s rough, demagogic language, Segall expressed himself in more thoughtful, intimist terms. Miller implies this when he notes that his paintings contain “a large dose of the strange sentimentality of slaves [from] that vast mystic foundation of the Russian soul.”
Lasar Segall (1891–1957) was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, where his family was part of the Jewish community. He enrolled in the School of Applied Arts in Berlin and, in the early years of the century, spent time at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1912 he travelled to Brazil, where his brothers were already living. The Centro de Ciências e Artes de Campinas (SP) bought one of his paintings: Cabeça de menina russa (1908). He returned to Europe during the First World War. Joining forces with a group of German painters (such as Otto Dix) he co-founded the Dresdner Sezession – Gruppe 1919. After an exhibition of Russian art in Hanover in 1921 he established a relationship with Kandinsky. In 1923 he returned to Brazil. He painted a mural at the Pavilhão de Arte Moderna, a meeting place for artists and intellectuals at the home of the great promoter of the Semana de Arte Moderna of 1922, Mrs. Olivia Guedes Penteado. The mural was reviewed by Mário de Andrade, who identified his “Brazilian phase” (1924–28). Segall took part in SPAM’s Primeira Exposição de Arte Moderno and the Spamolândia project in 1934. Three of his paintings and seven prints were featured in the Entartete Kunst Ausstellungsführer [Exhibition of Degenerate Art] organized by the Nazis in 1937 to discredit modern art. In the 1940s he traveled, painted stage sets, and illustrated books and magazines. His major work, Navio de emigrantes (1939–41), was highly praised by George Grosz.
The noted critic, poet, musicologist, and cultural promoter Mário de Andrade (1893–1945) closely followed Segall’s career in Brazil, writing several articles outlining what he described as the painter’s “visual art biography” during the time he lived in Brazil. For additional information, see [1111411 and 783393].