Artist: Candido Portinari
Completion Date: 1939
Style: Social Realism
O Lavrador de Cafe (Painting by Candido Portinari 1903-1962), a son of Italian immigrants was born in Brodowski, Sao Paulo Brazil. The Brazilian painter’s work became prominent in the 20th century and he was known as an influential practitioner thanks to the unique neo-realism style used in his paintings.
Portinari had thousands of art collections having spent time over the years making small sketches as well as standard paintings. Besides that, he also made panels and gigantic murals featured in numerous art scenes. Portinari’s work was heavily influenced by his surroundings, having been born in the coffee farms by his immigrant parents who had arrived in Brazil at the end of the 19th century. One of his candid works is the O Lavrador de Café and below is its overview.
O Lavrador de Cafe (The Coffee Farmer) by Candido Portinari
This is one of Portinari’s famous oil paintings on canvas. It displays a black Brazilian farmworker in a rural coffee farm environment while holding a hoe. The Candido Portinari O Lavrador de Café painting was produced in 1934 and it highlights the Brazilian reality at that time.
O Lavrador de Cafe Theme/Patterns
O Lavrador de Café by Candido Portinari is a well-detailed portrait that conveys a deep message. From oil painting, we can pick several patterns that come into play:
The pose of the Lavrador and the Train in the Background
The Lavrador (farmer) has a stagnant pose, standing still while staring deep into the horizon. He seems to be in deep thoughts as seen from his pose. Meanwhile, the train is leaving on the background, highlighting a deep contrast between them.
The Texture of the Portrait
This portrait is quite flaky and the texture is quite rough. It can be seen on the Lavrado’s clothes as well as the skin covering his hands and legs. Besides that, the mounds of brown coffee bean, as well as the cut tree stump, enhance the portraits rough texture, which is obviously flaky
The Pastel Color Palette
Candido Portinari used smooth shades of white, green, brown, and light blue to bring out the nature of the surrounding environment. The clean and light color strokes vary from the skies, clouds, coffee plants, the Lavrador, as well as the mounds of soil, and coffee.
Contrasting and Metaphorically Similar Outlines
The Lavrador is a coffee worker, but in this painting by Candido Portinari, he’s simply standing and holding his hoe. The painter tried to join various types of ordinaries together that seemed to be contrasting at that time. Ideally, the coffee worker is supposed to be working, but from the portrait, he seems to be wondering deep into his thoughts.
Another contrasting factor is while he’s standing, the coal train at the background seems to be leaving, going in the opposite direction. There is also a contrasting aspect of the organization. Looking at where the Lavrador is standing, things seem to be in disarray. The mounds of red coffee beans left uncollected in addition to the piece of tree stump left nearby all highlight lack of clear organization. Meanwhile, the pattern of the plantation behind clearly portrays organization. The plantation follows a clear row format, going back to the hills.
Besides that, we can pick an aspect of ordinariness displayed by Candido Portinari. For instance, the vegetation in the background is green while the coal train is leaving behind chaffs of white smoke. We can also see red mounds of sand as well as the dark skin tone of the coffee worker. It wasn’t unusual to have black coffee workers working on farms. However, the work was extremely demanding and that’s why the Lavrador has thick legs and muscly hands.
Lastly, we can pick how blacks where treated in the 20th century and how they had the lowest status in the community has coffee farm workers who were subjected to demanding labor tasks. Even in the post-slavery period in Brazil, blacks were considered to be slaves to the wealthy white majority.
Candido Portinari Expressionism
In this Brazilian portrait that was done in 1934, Candido Portinari was clear about using his work to express his thoughts. It should be noted that O Lavrador de Café by Candido Portinari rose to become one of his famous works ever.
Generally, it was typical to find blacks working in coffee plantations in the 20th century. But the labor was demanding and the farm workers were subjected to use crude and heavy tools that required intense muscle power.
The Lavrador is holding a hoe in his hands, after tending to the crops seen in the background. Portinari also paints him having larger feet and arms compared to the rest of his body. This expresses how demanding the labor force was. Ideally, Portinari expresses a deformed character, which means that farmworkers were not valued at that time in Brazil. It’s clear that the labor had done extensive damage to the man’s physical wellbeing and which involved suffering.
With the onset of industrialization as Portinari expresses with the train in the background, it’s evident that at this time there was also massive deforestation. That’s why you can see a recently felled tree log and a fresh stump. It should be noted that Portinari was a fan of the environment, and deforestation clearly made him upset.
Note: Most of Portinari’s portraits have highlights of flora and fauna because he was an environmentally-conscious individual who valued trees and plants. Even in his most diverse portraits, he tried to link them with environmental aspects. That can be verified by this portrait which not only has a tree stump but also the coffee crops in the background.
One of the most common means of transport in the 1930s was the coal train. It was used to export coffee to other countries. Even with his deformed physical appearance while strongly holding on to his hoe, it is clear that rural farm workers in Brazil were exploited in order to sustain the coffee industry which the wealthy whites managed.
Highlights of Candido Portinari – O Lavrador de Café
- Disproportionate or extremely large display of the Lavrador’s hands and feet. This was due to the demanding manual labor in the coffee farms.
- The easily noticeable severed tree that indicates the onset of industrialization.
- The hoe which was a crude tool used to tend to the vegetation. While he’s supposed to use it as a working tool, the Lavrador is holding on it for support.
- The blue skies covered with clouds contrast the color of the land as well as the vegetation
- A man in deep thoughts who seems fatigued and frustrated
Other Candido Portinari Paintings
Apart from the O Lavrador de Café ; painting, Portinari created other masterpieces. He’s known for the War and Peace panel which was later used by the Brazilian government as a gift to the UN. His other popular paintings include:
I. The Dance in the Countryside – 1924: it’s considered as his harbinger because this was the basis of his paintings.
II. The Coffee Bean Mowers – 1935: coffee beans and plantations consistently featured in Portinari’s paintings because he was born on a coffee farm. This plantation highlights the hard work that coffee farm workers handled while in these plantations.
III. Soccer – 1935: we all know that Brazil is synonymous with soccer and that Portinari’s paintings were heavily influenced by his surroundings. Soccer is another painting that displays children playing “pelada”, a famous soccer game in Brazil.
IV. Chorinho – 1942: the Chorinho is a popular type of Brazilian rhythm. The sound is produced using a combination of the cavaquinho, flute, and guitar. Historical data indicates that the Chorinho rhythm first emerged in the 19th century and it had a significant influence in Portinari’s cubism style.
V. Dead Child – 1944: Portinari’s painting had some aspects of his childhood and also his preferences. However, he did not forget to use his paintings to express the sufferings that people underwent in the 20th century. Just like the O Lavrador de Café; painting, the Dead Child also indicates a painful representation that people in North-Eastern Brazil lived in. This region had been considerably affected by the lack of basic resources including poor living standards and lack of water.
There is no doubt that Portinari was a distinguished painter who used his pieces of work to express his feelings. His portraits were intoxicating and highlighted his concerns regarding the environment, coffee farmworkers, and the lifestyle of other Brazilians.
The Bottom Line
O Lavrador de Café Candido Portinari portrait is a masterpiece that was based on the realities of the 1930s. Blacks and other immigrants were exploited as farmworkers. They were subjected to an extremely demanding environment in order to sustain the coffee industry at that time.
As the industry started to boom, the land had to be cleared in order to create room for more coffee plants. From this portrait, you can see that the coffee bushes covered even the hills. It’s clear that the wealthy not only exploited human beings but also the environment in order to cement their status.