In his essay on the work of Käthe Kollwitz, Mário Pedrosa connects the political nature of modern art with the social dynamics and productive forces of that era. The author divides the arts field into “individual artists” (who have immediate aesthetic objectives) and “social artists” [socially engaged artists] (who are in tune with what he calls the realism of the working class); he places the German artist’s work within this latter category. For Pedrosa, the destiny of Kollwitz’s art was not to be found in art itself, but rather in the “social reality of the proletariat.” Her work, which he describes as “partisan and biased,” goes beyond an aesthetic output; it is “a social imperative from which one cannot escape, it is a system of life.” Kollwitz distinguished herself through her representational engravings and drawings of workers, beggars, victims of World War I, and immigrant women and children. The show held at the CAM in São Paulo was one of the main venues for the dissemination of German expressionism in Brazil during the first half of the 20th century.
Mário Pedrosa (1900–81) was an intellectual and politician, and undoubtedly the key theoretician and critic on Brazilian art of the 20th century. He began as an international politics correspondent for the Diário da Noite, and beginning in the 1920s he was affiliated with the PCB (Communist Party of Brazil). He was imprisoned in 1932 because of his political militancy (Trotskyism). During the Estado Novo of Getúlio Vargas, he lived in exile in France and New York, and only returned to Brazil after the Second World War, when he worked for the Correio da Manhã. His stance against Stalinism led him to found the Vanguarda Socialista, a weekly publication. He presented a thesis on aesthetics called “Da natureza afetiva da forma na obra de arte” (1949) at the School of Architecture (Rio) that made use of his philosophical background, and his knowledge of Gestalt psychology; during that time he was also one of the founders of the AICA (1948) and also organized the International Conference of Art Critics (Brasilia, 1959). He wrote an arts column for the Tribuna da Imprensa (1950–54) and was an organizing member of the II and III São Paulo Biennials (1953 and 1955), later becoming director of the MAM-SP (1961–63). He served as secretary for the National Council of Culture during the brief government of Jânio Quadros. During the military dictatorship he took refuge in Chile, where he became director of the Museo de la Solidaridad in Santiago; after the Pinochet coup (1973), he left for Havana, where he served as secretary for the Museo de la Resistencia Salvador Allende. He only returned to Brazil in 1977 (at the beginning of the amnesty) and was the first to sign the manifesto creating the PT (Party of Workers, 1980). His vast library (which included eight thousand volumes) is partially available at the national library in Rio de Janeiro.
[As complementary reading, see the following texts by Mário Pedrosa in the ICAA digital archive: “Abstração ou figuração ou realismo?” (1085648); “Arquitetura e crítica de arte” (1086553); “Crise nas artes individuais” (1110406); “Da abstração a auto-expressão” (1085707); “Da lógica na apreciação artística” (1086587); “Debate: o artista e a crítica” (1110951); “Lições do Congresso de Críticos” (1110410); “Paulistas e cariocas” (1085056); “Pintura brasileira e moda internacional” (1126469); and “Problemas da pintura brasileira” (1075171)].