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    In this short essay, Joaquim Falcão approaches the 80-year career of Cícero Dias through two questions. His first question, “Is Cícero Dias is a painter from Pernambuco or Paris?”, addresses the tension between Dias’ Brazilian roots and European training, a contrast between provincialism and internationalism or modernism. While Falcão summarizes this tension with terms such as “Pernambucally Parisian” and “cosmopolitanally provincial,” Dias himself did not envision such concepts in conflict with each other. “I’ve tried to be modern in painting Brazilian culture,” he said. Falcão’s second question, “Cícero Dias is a modern or traditional painter?”, addresses another tension in Dias’ work, which encompasses both the formal modernism of geometric abstractionism and figuration “impregnated with permanent feelings and traditions of Brazilian life.” Like Brazil, Falcão concludes, Dias is an artist of “beautiful synthesis.”

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    This pamphlet accompanied a retrospective exhibition of Cícero Dias at the Casa França-Brasil in April 1997. The exhibition was curated by Jean Boghici, a collector and gallerist who was an early champion of artists such as Milton Dacosta (1915–88), Alfredo Volpi (1896–1988), and Di Cavalcanti (1897–1976). In the late 1950s, Boghici was hired by Ferreira Gullar to research and acquire Brazilian art for the Fundação Cultural do Distrito Federal. Traveling the north and northeast regions of the country, he acquired works that would form the collection of the new Museu da Arte Popular de Brasília, designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer. This essay was written by Joaquim Falcão, a professor of law who was president of the Fundação Roberto Marinho, a cultural development organization that funds museums and exhibitions in Rio de Janeiro.

     

    A self-taught painter, Cícero [Dos Santos] Dias (1907–2003) began painting in a Surrealist style inspired by his daily life in northeastern Brazil. During the Estado Novo administration of Getúlio Vargas, Dias left Brazil and found asylum in Paris, where he lived for more than half a century. There he met Picasso, with whom he established a friendship, as well as Georges Braque, Henri Matisse and Fernand Léger. In the tumultuous years of the early 1940s, he was imprisoned briefly by the Nazis but escaped to Lisbon, where he lived until 1945. On his return to Paris after the war, Dias abandoned figuration and joined the Groupe Éspace, known for its defense of abstract tendencies. In 1948, Dias was commissioned to paint a mural at the Secretaria das Finanças do Estado de Pernambuco (in his hometown of Recife). In 1965, the Bienal Internacional de São Paulo devoted a special section to his work. Having participated in many major exhibitions of Brazilian modernism, Dias’ 90th birthday was marked by a retrospective exhibition and catalogue at the Casa França-Brasil. In 1998, he received from the French Government of François Mitterrand l’Ordre National du Mérite de la France award.  

     

    [For more on Cícero Dias, see the following articles in the ICAA digital archive: by Gilberto Freyre “Um pintor brasileiro fixado em Paris” (doc. no. 1110819), “Cícero Dias e seu ‘nonsense’” (doc. no. 1110804), “O que foi o 1º Congresso Afro-brasileiro do Recife (doc. no. 783512), and “O regional e o universal na pintura de Cícero Dias” (doc. no. 1075269); by Mário Pedrosa “Pernambuco, Cícero Dias e Paris” (doc. no. 1110816); by Sérgio Milliet “Cícero Dias, no Rio” (doc. no. 1110880); by Olivio Montenegro “A exposição de Cicero Dias” (doc. no. 1110796); (unattributed) “Conversa com Cícero Dias: ‘No abstrato está o futuro da pintura’” (doc. no. 1111000); (unattributed) “XXXVIII Exposição Geral de Bellas Artes” (doc. no. 782688); by León Degand “[Letter]” (doc. no. 1110822); by Mário de Andrade “O Salão” (doc. no. 784285); by Lina Bo Bardi “[As exposições de pintura brasileira...]” (doc. no. 1110863); and by Maria Ladjane “Dados para uma História da Arte em Pernambuco” (doc. no. 1111378), among many others].