When I became aware of the world, I was already painting.
Introducing Master Picasso
Dalva Duarte was born in 1949 in the small village Carolina in the North of Brazil. She had two brothers and three sisters. When she was three years old, she discovered the magic of creating pictures. At the age of seven – having only a few pencils – she invented materials of her own, using charcoal, red, orange and ocre graines of earth she found on the ground, and egg. She didn´t have any brushes then, so she used sticks and feathers and treated old cloth and rags until they became soft so she could create a “sfumato“ on the paper or wall.
She absolutely wanted to become a painter, a very uncommon wish in a rural surrounding. But Dalva Duarte was supported by her father, “a handsome mulatto man“, as Dalva Duarte describes him. He understood his daughter´s talent and asked her to draw all his friends. She did and – sold her first works! When the family moved to Brasília, in 1960, her father took her to a “real“ painter, and when the girl Dalva discovered he had a whole selection of oil colours, green and blue and more, she suffered a crisis: she also wanted to paint the sea and the sky!
So, besides new oil colours and canvasses, Dalva Duarte´s father offered his strong-willed daughter a monthly art magazine for her twelfth birthday. The first one was a monographic edition on Pablo Picasso. The young girl discovered a completely new world of art. She read that Picasso had studied the “old masters“, and that he called himself a clown compared to Velasquez and Goya, the “real painters“.
So Dalva Duarte started copying the old masters shown in this magazine, and then from all the art magazines she received and all the books she borrowed from the library.
Picasso, says Dalva Duarte today, opened a door for her to the European tradition of painting but also to abstraction and cubism, and so she stayed faithful to him throughout her life.
She decided to go to Europe, and when she was 21, she traveled through Brazil, drawing people in the street, selling the drawings and saving money to pay the passage on a ship to Lisbon where she arrived at the age of 23. Eight months she lived in Madrid, copying Velasquez and Goya, before she finally started her “official“ education at L´École des Beaux Arts in Paris.
At 25, she won her first contest, with a huge canvas, Carnaval.
Master Picasso VIII, oil on canvas, 204 x 132 cm
I came from nowhere.
Memories of a Childhood
I was born in the northeast of Brazil, in a small city called Carolina.
My grandmother, who was a natural healer and the local midwife, delivered me in an adobe house at six o’clock in the evening, so my mother remembers. My mother, Eunice Duarte, was from an old Portuguese family that came to Brazil at the end of the 1700s, and was probably of Jewish background; my father Joao Gomes da Silva was a handsome mulatto man. The old folks called him Joao Marcos.
I have two brothers, Valmir and Valdemir, and my sisters are called Maria Dos Anjos, Dilma and Delma. We moved around in the State of Goias for eight years, and then settled in Brasilia in 1960.
Carolina still lives in the dreams of my childhood. For years, I listened to the stories my parents told me about it, and imagined and lived in that world. The streets of loose white sand, where people walked without shoes. The white linen clothes that they wore pressed with a hot ember iron, and their straw hats from Panama and beige felt hats from France. The names of people in the stories were: Alves, Bezerra, Duarte, Fonseca, Oliveira, Pita, Vidal, Gouveia, and others.
The houses of Carolina were simple, covered by terra cotta tile or the woven thatch from coconut trees. At the end of the day, the people gathered on the sidewalk where the long shadows of the houses and the trees cooled the sand and refreshed the day. There, they chatted with each other about the daily events. Some people came, others left, always with the rich taste of their lives.
The wedding ceremonies, as my mother told me, were spectacular parades. People on horseback rode from the countryside to the city to partake in them. The balls were never ending. Small tin kerosene lamps illuminated the night, while my Uncle Moises imitated on his accordion the sound of the music of Luiz Gonzaga, a popular Brazilian country singer. All the men danced, wearing a long knife on their belts. All this under the watchful eye of the young girls’ fathers. There were also improvised parties – crowds of people, up to 40, would appear at someone’s house unannounced and sing and dance until sunrise. That was how my parents met.
The people lived in the rhythm of the season. They were gentle, happy, generous people, even though they lived hard lives. They were protective parents. The girls slept in bedrooms in a private part of the house; the boys slept on hammocks on the verandas. This is the Carolina of my youth and my dreams. If I go back now, I will not find the romantic image that lives within me. That is why I lovingly refuse to see the Carolina of today … so that I never erase the Carolina of my dreams.