Amaral And Phai: Legacies Of Modern Art

Kasturi Goswami
3 min readSep 1, 2022


Modern Art (noun) is defined as a distinctive art form with a marked variation from traditional orthodox art styles. The origins of this movement were laid down during the 19th and 20th centuries. The chief objective behind this was to express the artists’ views of the modern world, keeping aside traditions and practices that defined the views of the previous leaders in their fields.

Two different worlds, years apart, yet their modernism had much in common and shifted the art world towards a new dawn. Today the 1st of September celebrates the birth of two modern artists Tarsila do Amaral and Bui Xuan Phai.

Tarsila de Aguiar do Amaral

Tarsila was born to wealthy coffee plantation owners in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Her folks believed in liberty and education. Thus, they encouraged their child to pursue higher studies despite that not being the usual norm. Tarsila was sent to study in Barcelona and trained under artist Pedro Alexandrino Borges. She attended the Academie Julian in Paris and got the opportunity to observe and train under various prominent artists.

#colourfulingrey: Tarsila de Aguiar do Amaral

After completing her courses, she traveled with a group, Grupo Dos Cinco, throughout Europe and learned about Cubism, Expressionism, and Futurism. The group comprised four other prominent modernist artists aimed at bringing about change in the conservative artistic environment of Brazil and introducing modern art into the scenario. Finally, when she returned to Brazil, she became the country’s leading modernist artist, who portrayed the warm Brazilian character and its tropical exuberance through her art form.

Tarsila has under her name 230 paintings, hundreds of drawings, illustrations, prints, and murals. She has a record of hugely successful exhibitions. Her famous works include:

An Angler (1920), A Negra (1923), Cuca (1924), Landscape with Bull (1925), O Ovo (1928), Abaporu (1928), Lake (1928), Antropofagia (1929), Sol poente (1929), Segundo Class (1933), Retrato de Vera Vicente Azevedo (1937), Purple Landscape with 3 Houses and Mountains (1969–72).

Bui Xuan Phai

Bui Xuan was born in the old city of Hanoi, Vietnam. He graduated from the Faculty of Painting, Indochina College of Fine Arts (1941–45). In 1956, Bui Xuan joined as a professor at the Hanoi Fine Arts School. But he was forced to resign after a year, for he had decided to join the Nhan Van-Giai Movement. The sole purpose of the movement was to seek liberty for the artists to express their political views.

#colorfulingrey: Bui Xuan Phai

Following his resignation, he had to labor in a carpentry shop in Nam Dinh. He returned to art by drawing illustrations and funny pictures in the newspapers under pseudonyms. Bui Xuan’s artworks were influenced by Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism and consisted mainly of oil paintings on canvas. Years later, in 1984, he had his first solo exhibition, where he was widely appreciated. He is recognized as one of the biggest influences on modern Vietnamese art.

Bui Xuan won the Ho Chi Minh Prize (1996), National Fine Arts Exhibition Award (1946, 1980), Leipzig Graphics Award (Germany), Capital Fine Arts Award (1969, 1981, 1983, 1984), Medal for the Cause of Fine Arts (1997). His famous works include:

Old Quater of Hanoi (1972), Resistance War in Hanoi (1966), Cow cart in old town (1972), Deserted street (1981), Cheo stage (1968), Dress up for Cheo stage (1968), Rowing couple (1967) and Before the show (1984).

Image Source ~ Wikiart



Kasturi Goswami

I head the content team of a digital transformation startup. Medium is an outlet for my itch to write something that isn't part of my job.