On the front of an enormous hotel building at an intersection in São Paulo’s Consolação district, you’ll find a striking mosaic mural created by one of Brazil’s most creative and iconic artists, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti.
Di Cavalcanti was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1897 and later studied art in Europe, living in Paris for a number of years. There, he befriended and was mentored by renowned artists such as Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso, who had the greatest influence on the young student’s concepts of art.
Upon returning to his homeland, Di Cavalcanti specifically sought to capture the modernist reality of his country by incorporating Brazilian themes like native landscapes, carnivals, and mythology into his work. At a time when Brazil was still a country with deeply entrenched institutional racism, Di Cavalcanti broke with stultifying Eurocentric ideas of beauty and art. He instead chose to depict the predominately mixed-race demography of Brazil’s population in his public artwork.
Di Cavalcanti also admired and was inspired by the famous Mexican muralists Diego Riviera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, who were also part of his social circle. But unlike his Mexican colleagues, Di Cavalcanti was not an overtly political man and he steered clear of making his art follow any ideological line, instead preferring to celebrate the color, warmth, and sensuality of Brazil and its people.
This particular mural on the facade of the Novotel Jaraguá hotel—the former headquarters of the “O Estado de S. Paulo” newspaper—is entitled “Imprensa,” or “Press,” and was created in 1953 using a layered mosaic technique. In true modernist fashion, it portrays a process of industrial production, in this case, publishing a newspaper. The colorful figures on the far left and right corners of the panel symbolize the readers of the publication while the figures in the central scenes are portrayed performing the work of writing, editing, and printing the paper.
Know Before You Go
The mural can be found on the facade of the Novotel Jaraguá hotel and can be seen for free from the street. You can see more wonderful modernist artworks by Di Cavalcanti in the Pinacoteca and MASP art galleries.