Through its history, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo has expanded the arch of its collection, which originally had a strong emphasis on academic art - reinforced by long-term connections with the local School of Fine Arts - to encompass a great diversity of styles, including abstract art.
A robust collection of works by Brazilian artists from the 19th century is still one of the museum's highlights. Many of those works reflect the ascension of a class of enriched paulistas, notably coffee barons, who could afford to patronize the arts.
Among the pieces which came from the Museu Paulista collection are paintings by José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior (1850-1899), one of the most important Brazilian artists of the 19th century. Born in São Paulo State, he studied in Paris and had a firm basis in academic art; several of his paintings depicted the people of rural São Paulo and other regional themes.
The Pinacoteca has 48 works by Almeida Júnior, who had a relatively brief career - he was murdered by a cousin who had discovered the nature of his wife's relationship with the artist. She, who had once been Almeida Júnior's fiancée, inspired several of the women in his paintings.
Brazilian modernist artists are well represented at the Pinacoteca with iconic works such as São Paulo (1924) by Tarsila do Amaral (the museum also has nearly 80 drawings and studies mainly donated by her family) and Bananal (1927) by Lasar Segall, one of the Brazilian Modernism precursors. A Segall painting is one of the museum's most recent acquisitions. Portrait of Goffredo da Silva Telles (1927), in a private collection until 2011, stayed on display at the museum for about two months.
Extensive Pinacoteca collections by a single artist include those of Jean-Baptiste Debret (1768 - 1848), with about 150 lithographs, Chile-born Henrique Bernardelli (1858–1936), with 558 works - mainly drawings - and Aldemir Martins (1922-2006), with 113 works (xylography, lithography and drawing).
The current long-term exhibit at Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo was opened on Oct.15, 2011. Entitled "Arte no Brasil - uma história na Pinacoteca de São Paulo" ("Art in Brazil - a History at Pinacoteca de São Paulo"), it consists of about 500 works - paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and photographs. About 300 of those works were restored by the museum's technical team through the year preceding the opening.
"The exhibit, displayed in chronological order, is articulated around two themes which are essential to the constitution and the understanding of the development of artistic practices in Brazil," said the Pinacoteca's head curator, Ivo Mesquita (who has since been appointed technical director), in a press release. "On one hand, there's the formation of a visual imagery about Brazil - a whole made up of images about the country, its relations and meanings. There's also the formation of an art system in the country - teaching, production, market, critic and museums - which starts with the arrival of the French Artistic Mission [in the early 19th century], the creation of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts and the arts sponsorship program."
The exhibit occupies the whole second floor of the Pinacoteca building and spreads across 11 rooms:
- The Colonial Tradition
Two major trends of Brazil's colonial artistic tradition are represented in the exhibit's first room: religious themes and the European imagery of the country, introduced during the brief Dutch occupation of the Northeast with paintings which depicted Brazil's natural environment.
- Traveling Artists
Between 1820 and 1890, several foreign artists, generically known as travelers, depict Brazil's natural exuberance in landscape and still life paintings. Some of the highlights of that period can be seen here.
- Creation of the Academy
Jean-Baptiste Debret, Nicolas Taunay and Zéphéryn Ferrez, artists in the 1816 French Artistic Mission, trailblaze a new phase in Brazil art, marked by the opening of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts and new aesthetic patterns in the country's art scene.
- End-of-Century Academy
Important works by brothers Rodolfo and Henrique Bernardelli and other instructors and graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts are displayed in the exhibit's fourth room.
- Academy Teachings
A representation of mainstays of academic art in Brazil: studies of the human body, copies of works by great masters, the fruits of the Europe trip awarded to the winners of academy competitions.
Brazilian exponents in major types of genre painting - history, portraiture, landscape and still life painting.
- Genre Painting
Artistic production which reflects the values of an emergent São Paulo bourgeoisie is represented in this room with works by artists such as Almeida Júnior and Eliseu Visconti.
- From Collections to the Museum
Rooms 8 and 9 feature a round-up of works come from great lots donated to the Pinacoteca, such as the Azevedo Marques, Silveira Cintra and Alfredo Mesquita donations.
- Paulista Imagery
The late 19th century marks a new phase in São Paulo art with projections of rural São Paulo folk - the caipira - and images which reflect the capital's urbanization.
- National Identity in Art
The creation of art representing a concept of Brazilian identity is crucial to the country's production in the 19th century through Modernism. This room features some of the greatest works treating that theme.
Besides the long-term exhibit of the museum's permanent collection, the Pinacoteca hosts many temporary exhibits featuring selected works from its own collection as well as works by outstanding contemporary artists from other museums and organizations.
Partnerships with international institutions have made possible exhibits such as "Saul Steinberg – Adventures of the Line" in 2011, featuring about 100 drawings (1940 a 1960) from the Saul Steinberg Foundation.
Always on Thursdays
Art lovers, mainly the ones who speak Portuguese, can enjoy lectures on a wide range of topics weekly at the Pinacoteca. The Always on Thursdays (Sempre às Quintas) programs often relates to ongoing exhibits, shedding extra light on the featured artists and their work.
The program occasionally involves international guests, as in the case of the April 12, 2012 presentation of an ambitious landscape painting exhibit the museum will be launching in 2015 with several partners in other countries of the Americas.
The program takes place on Thursday evenings (check starting times) in the Auditorium.
2015 Traveling Landscape Painting Exhibit
In April 2012, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo announced that it is preparing a great exhibit for 2015 on landscape painting in the Americas from the 19th century to the first decades of the 20th century.
The exhibit, a partnership with Terra Foundation for American Art (Chicago) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto) will travel in Brazil, Canada and the US. It will focus on the similarities and differences with which artists in different countries of the Americas referred to European models for landscape painting when depicting local, regional and national scenes.
Social Inclusion Programs
The Pinacoteca promotes a diverse and vibrant social inclusion program geared towards groups in vulnerable social conditions. The programs aims at expanding a sense of cultural belonging, developing aesthetic perception and strengthening critical thinking and self-esteem.
Artisan co-ops, homeless people, and children from underprivileged areas are some of the groups reached by the programs, which include guided visits, the formation of social educators, workshops, and the production of Arte+, consisting of free support materials.