Rubem Dario

His full name was Rubem Dario Horta Bittencourt. He was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1941 "by accident" from a traditional Minas Gerais family and lived in Belo Horizonte until 1959, when he moved to Rio de Janeiro.

In 1960, he started to learn art, beginning with basic drawing at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation. From 1961 to 1964, he took lessons at the free atelier of artist Frank Schaeffer (1917-2008), and in 1965 he attended a technical painting course with artist Domenico Lazzarini (1920-1987) at the Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro. Throughout this period, he divided his time between painting and advertising design, a field he had worked on in São Paulo in 1962-1963.

In 1963, Dario decided to focus exclusively on painting. He held his first painting exhibition at 21, with portraits of some important ladies of Rio de Janeiro society at the Montmartre-Jorge gallery. Jorge Beltrão, the gallery manager, introduced Dario as "a young man from Minas Gerais who is emerging as one of the most promising painting talents in Rio."

The award-winning artist Frank Schaeffer described Dario as "a 19-year-old boy who wanted to be an architect and came to work at my studio." Dario was influenced by his master and followed his advice to pursue the "art of tapestry" due to the fact that his painting had a "muralist character"; in 1964, he started to produce model cards at Schaeffer's atelier.

In 1964, Dario decided to assign the execution of his tapestries to the Bangu Prison Handicraft Workshop in Rio de Janeiro, a remarkable social enterprise carried out under the guidance and supervision of Mrs. Gilda Carneiro de Mendonça, who helped him pick wools and colors for his works. In September of the same year, Dario, then with 22 years of age, inaugurated the Décor gallery in Rio de Janeiro with his first tapestry exhibition, characterized by cheerful and attractive colors in compositions reinforced by broad and strict lines that revealed his Constructivist leanings.

The São Paulo Biennial Foundation, through its president Ciccillo Matarazzo Sobrinho, was invited to organize the Brazilian representation at the 1st Biennial of Applied Arts of Uruguay, held in March 1965 in Punta Del Este. Young Rubem Dario was selected and participated in this Biennial with five works, together with pioneering artists of Brazilian tapestry – Genaro, Douchez and Nicola, among others.

In November 1965, Dario held his second solo tapestry exhibition at the Décor Gallery, adopting for this new phase the theme of tropical vegetation. In the same year, Rio de Janeiro Governor Carlos Lacerda purchased three tapestries by Dario, one of them for the Guanabara Palace.

In 1966, Dario was quite active and participated in several exhibitions. In February, he was included in the group exhibition "Portuguese Tapestry in Brazil", held at the Portugal de Hoje exhibition hall in Rio de Janeiro. In April, his works were displayed at the Décor Gallery in the Hotel Nacional in Brasília. In June 10, he held his third solo exhibition at Décor Gallery in Rio de Janeiro. Ten days later, on June 20, he inaugurated his first solo exhibition in Minas Gerais, at the Guignard Gallery in Belo Horizonte. In August, he held an individual exhibition at Scala gallery. In December, he was present at the group exhibition "Art and Craft" at Décor Gallery. Still in 1966, Dario received a request to create a tapestry for Princess Margrette, now the Queen of Denmark. It was in that same year that Dario attained fame and real recognition of his art, having been highly praised by the press and by the most demanding Brazilian critics.

In February 1967, Dario was invited to display his works at the Special Room of the 1st National Young Painting Exhibition, held at Quitandinha Hotel in Petrópolis. In September, he was included in the group exhibition "The Face and the Work", 1967 Edition, at the IBEU gallery in Rio de Janeiro. In December, he participated in a collective exhibition that inaugurated the Zitrin Gallery in Rio de Janeiro.

From 1968 to 1970, Dario, whose multicolored works had attained national renown, kept away from exhibitions and enjoyed his fame by producing many cards for tapestry orders placed by public and private entities in Rio de Janeiro, such as the Santo Inácio College Library, Furnas, Usiminas, Denasa Group, Bozano Simonsen Bank and National School of Architecture. Similar requests were made by companies from Belo Horizonte and other cities. Dario also sold his works to the United States, Germany, England, Japan, Argentina, Chile and Denmark.

In 1969, he moved from Rio de Janeiro to Belo Horizonte, where, from 1970 to 1973, he produced tapestries at an atelier that employed young students from the Nossa Senhora do Perpétuo Socorro School under a social work project organized and led by Mrs. Clara Maria Frattini Renault.

In 1971, Dario participated in the important group exhibition "Tapestry of Minas Gerais" at the Palace of Arts in Belo Horizonte. In the same year, the Alberto Bonfiglioli Art Gallery in São Paulo had Rubem Dario's tapestries prominently displayed in a permanent exhibition that included works from several renowned artists represented by the gallery.

In 1972, Dario kept visiting clients and workshops for his researches in Rio de Janeiro and also started to execute his tapestries at the Guanabara Crafts workshop, which was run by Maria Angela Almeida Magalhães and Gilda Vieira. In the same year, Dario displayed his works for the second time at the Guignard gallery in Belo Horizonte. The artist – who couldn't live without broad landscapes and the view of nature – created works joining opposite themes: machine and nature, symbolizing urban and country life.

  The exhibition at the Guignard gallery in 1972 was yet another milestone in Dario's short and meteoric career, with one of his tapestries being chosen for the Pampulha Art Museum, where it remains to this day. In 1972, Dario was called "the wizard of colors" by the Minas Gerais press, which chose him as "tapestry maker of the year".

In 1973, Dario’s works were displayed during the inauguration of the Arte Exposta Gallery in Belo Horizonte. In 1974, he participated in two group exhibitions held by Kompass Cultura Gallery with six artists from Minas Gerais – one entitled "Those Who Come From Minas", in São Paulo in July, and the other, "Mineiros & Kompass", at the ICBEU cultural space in Belo Horizonte in October. In the catalogue for these exhibitions, critic Morgan da Motta wrote that "Dario mixes refined geometric shapes without the excessive rigor of concretists – in other words, he simplifies elements of fauna and flora which until recently were his main theme."

In 1974, Dario participated in important group exhibitions in Belo Horizonte highlighting the artistic status that had been attained Brazilian tapestry at the time, such as "Brazilian Tapestry", held in September at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, together with pioneering artists Genaro, Douchez and Nicola, and "Trends of Tapestry" in October at the Museum of Modern Art of Pampulha.

In October 1974, Dario was honored during the inauguration of the Minas Tennis Club Art Gallery in Belo Horizonte with a collective exhibition from the atelier of artist Marlene Trindade. In May 1975 he participated in a group exhibition held by Contorno Art Gallery in Rio de Janeiro to support the movement aimed at promoting a rediscovery of Brazilian tapestry. In June of the same year, he was included in a collective exhibition that inaugurated the Vivência gallery in Belo Horizonte.

In October 1975, Ami Art Gallery in Belo Horizonte organized Dario's last living solo exhibition. In the catalogue of this exhibition, art critic José Maurício Vidal Gomes called Dario "the poet of tapestry" and said his work around this theme of dreams would make him immortal. Poetically, it was a farewell to Dario and his brief career with this surreal theme pointing to the stars. Three years after the exhibition, Dario died prematurely on January 14, 1978 at the young age of 36.

He received posthumous honors during two collective exhibitions in 1978 – "Modern Tapestry Panorama in Minas Gerais", held in October at the Palace of Arts of Belo Horizonte, and "Paths of Brazilian Tapestry", held in December at Funarte in Rio de Janeiro.

Passado Composto Século XX Gallery keeps model cards and tapestries from this fascinating artist in its collection. Additionally, the gallery has been performing a broad research on Dario's life and work by cataloging the vast historical documentation provided by his sister, Mrs. Anna Lucia Bittencourt. Beautiful tapestries by Dario have already been displayed by the gallery in two group exhibitions: "Modern Signatures", in August 2014, and "The Curves of Modernism", in April 2016 at the new Design sector of SP-ARTE and in the gallery itself until August 2016. Both were group exhibitions with artists Genaro, Douchez, Nicola, and Gillon, among others.

Text - Graça Bueno
Illustration - Giovanna Verdini


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