Júlio Martins

Júlio Martins
Big house in the countryside

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Júlio Martins
[Júlio Martins da Silva]
1893, Icaraí - RJ / 1978, Rio de Janeiro - RJ

He was born in Icaraí, Niterói, at the end of the 19th century. He began life on the rural area. Since child, after learning to read and write, he looked for schools and even a private tutor to learn grammar, since he very much enjoyed poetry and which he would compose jointly with a number of his paintings. His father, João Martins da Silva, lived in the rural area and worked in the city as a cook. When his father died, the family could no longer pay rent to the farmer so moved to Rio de Janeiro, and went to different family households as domestic servants. Taught literacy in the job of his mother’s orders, when he was eight Júlio was sent to take messages, do shopping. After comings and goings to stay with his mother and worked I various jobs, always buying and reading books, he eventually moved to the city of Rio de Janeiro. There he lived a kind o bohemian life: he would work some months, stop because of carnival, go to the theatre a lot, and cafés with musical entertainment. He then found a lowly job in the Hotel Avenida, being promoted to cook until he retired. He began painting with crayons when he was 29 years old. When he was 47 years old he used coloring pencils for the very first time. After retiring as a cook, and going to live on União Hill in Coelho da Rocha, a Rio de Janeiro suburb, until his death, Júlio spent all his time painting, now using oil paints, a technique which he began when he lived downtown. His painting consists essentially on landscapes, predominantly with his favorite color green. He imagined them, adding details, however, of careful and realistic studies of leaves, trees, birds, flowers, gestures, clothes and animals. Human figures merge harmoniously in the green halo of the landscape, gathering flowers, holding hands in circles. Idyllic couples offer each other roses. The enamored gazes at his beloved brushing her hair at the window, another with open arms declares his love to his chosen one. In short, everything is delicate, idyllic, and euphoric, sometimes with a touch o humor. And all this Lilliputian population immersed in glorious flora emerges from Júlio’s diaphanous, filigree brushstrokes. He told me in 1974: “The painter must like all colors for variation. I use pink and red because it is obligatory. But what I really like is green. My paintings is always based on green. But not always to be the same, I do like colors, mix them, to make a different color. I learned to do it all by myself. My master was that on high”. These statements confirm what the paintings mean visually: the search for a spiritualization of nature, which contains the human in his picture, similar to the Zen art in China, where the macrocosm encompasses the microcosm. This one painting that concentrates in the symbols of the garden, fountain and home, a content of intense spirituality and harmony. The individual has overcome the obstacles of his particular human adventure of a poor black man, without family most of his life, transcending them, and was able to then create in the resemblance of his purified ego a perfect image of the world, transubstantiated in the figuration of the landscape. The garden is the emblem of ordered nature, the concluded vegetable garden of the conscious, in contrast to the disorder attributed to the unconscious, the forest. There is only one work in all his production where the forest theme appears with the leopard to confront us, solitary, from the mystery of the shadowy woods, in a far-distant analogy with the tropical fantasies of Douanier Rousseau. The fountain, figure of purity, is a usual complement of the gardens. Another constant in Júlio’s work is the figure of the house, to which he often attributes the meaning of temple. Identified by Cirlot to the idea of Center, the temple enables the passage between the terrestrial and celestial levels, in this painting of clear metaphysical meaning. The house is also the central place for the encounter between male and female, the waiting place and of the roads traveled. In Praia, however, while we can contemplate the infinite sea with the onlooker, his solitude of an individual with his back to us, entirely dressed for city life, is already a sign of man’s break with the paradisiacal landscape that we see on this side, on the edge of industrial civilization. Eduardo Subirats, in Paisagens da solidão (1986), comments on the figures with their back to us, before landscapes, which populate the pictures of Caspar David Friedrich. Their reflecting distance would point to “an account on the modern condition of human existence: torn from his interior and exterior nature by their own civilizing artifacts, and exposedto an overwhelming historic horizon, where vast concurrent forces agitate under the signs od decline”. Júlio was born in the 19th century and died when 85 years old. He fully experienced in his urban life the social and technological changes over this long period. Despite the discreet metaphysics imbued in his work, he did not escape the exposure to historic anguish of his time, expressing it with equal subtlety. Júlio’s paintings were discovered by Lélia Coelho Frota in 1967, and discussed in a essay published by her in Mitopoética de nove artistas brasileiros (1975). Even in the 1970s, Carlos Augusto Calil made a short film about his life and work O que estou vendo vocês não podem ver. Júlio Martins da Silva held individual exhibitions in art galleries in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, as well as in the National Museum of Fine Arts of Rio de Janeiro (1975). He took part in the 1978 Venice Biennial, held and individual exhibition in Washington in 1984, and his work is also in national museum collections, and foreign publications such as, for example, Popular Artists of Brazil, by Selden Rodman, 1977. In 1985 FIFA (International Federation of Soccer Association) sent out his Soccer as the official Christmas card from the association.

Little Dictionary of the Brazilian People’s Art – 20th Century, by anthropologist and poet Lélia Coelho Frota


Caderno Divirta-se | O Estado de São Paulo


Caderno Ilustríssima | Folha de São Paulo


Caderno 2 | O Estado de São Paulo


Galeria Estação