Art Deco we associate with a particular period in history— jazz-age of the 20s—but also with particular locales: Paris, London, Vienna, New York. We probably do not think of Rio de Janeiro. Europeans know very little about art from “the colonies.” But Brazil had its own modern art movement, one that strove for a distinctly Brazilian sensibility. The movement announced itself in 1922, the centennial of the South American nation’s independence from Portugal.
1922 happened to be the year that a Rio de Janeiro-born artist, illustrator, and graphic designer who went by the name J. Carlos (José Carlos de Brito e Cunha) took over the direction of the magazine Para Todos. Founded in 1918, the magazine began as a film rag, and its covers faithfully featured photo spreads of movie stars. But in 1926, Carlos began drawing his own cover illustrations, and he continued to do so for the next four years, as well as drawing thousands of cartoons and writing vaudeville plays and samba lyrics.
His work introduces some uniquely Brazilian elements that seem almost proto-psychedelic.
J. Carlos was a prolific artist who “collaborated in design and illustration in all the major publications of Brazil from the 1920s until the 1950s.” In all, it’s estimated that he left behind over 100,000 illustrations.