Arte e Poder
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Suburban landscapes of São Paulo: identity and power

This project aims to investigate the paintings and exhibitions of landscapes of São Paulo in the 1930s and 1940s by local artists in that city, in the context of the urban growth as a consequence of the industrial development and coffee exportation. Particular attention will be given to the so-called “Grupo do Santa Helena”, formed by Italian artists and descendants of immigrants, many of Italian origin, who became known as “proletarian artists”. These artists stood out mainly for the practice of landscape, with works that depict scenes of country life that they would seek in the peripheries of São Paulo, in incipient process of industrialization. Some of them are have many points of contact to Italian moderate modern art movements, especially Florentine Strapaese, which played an important role in Fascist Regime creating and promoting an Italian identity through images of regional landscapes. Industrial capital was instrumental in the arts patronage operated in São Paulo, which received millions of Italian immigrants since the end of the 19th century, bringing scholars and artists. Landscapes depicting São Paulo were very common in art exhibitions those years. It seems that this production was encouraged to promote a regional identity, in some way similar (but not as systematic) to strategies operated by Fascist Regime and the system of arts in Italy. The artists of Santa Helena, coming from working classes, were promoted as having a close relationship with industrial environment and being part of that environment, as representatives of a genuinely paulista artistic culture, when in São Paulo was to become the largest and most populated city in Brazil.