Behold, in 1817, Dom Pedro de Alcântara, royal heir to the throne of Portugal and Brazil, announces his marriage to Leopoldina, Austrian archduchess. It was therefore necessary for the Habsburgs to get to know the famous terra brasilis, with its exuberant fauna and flora.
To this end, a whole expedition of researchers in natural sciences arrived here, a team that the Austrian Thomas Ender was part of as a painter. In Brazil, he painted over a thousand canvases in 323 days. His work is gathered in “Ender and Brazil: Complete Work”, a meticulous work by historian Julio Bandeira, now in bookstores by Editora Capivara.
“Ender wanted to portray Brazil like a photographer”, says Bandeira. “His objective was to seek realism in the urban and natural landscape, at a time when historical painting was much more valued.”
In the historian’s view, three other painters are part of the visual elite that documented Brazil, from the Colony to the Empire. The French Jean-Baptiste Debret and Nicolas Antoine-Taunay, the German Johann Moritz Rugendas and Ender himself, each with a very distinct style, among all his colleagues at the time.
“The landscape of Taunay was never really Brazilian”, says Bandeira. “Although very beautiful, it seemed that he was afraid to face the nature of the country.” Debret, who was part of the French Artistic Mission, was more interested in figures, documenting people’s daily lives. He also had a more classical style, according to the historian.
In contrast, Rugendas portrayed Brazil from a romantic perspective, while Ender was notable for the crystalline reproduction of the landscape, a characteristic that stands out in the botanical documentation produced. According to Bandeira, the traveling artists —Taunay, Debret, Ender, Rugendas— nurtured a very modern vision, that the environment could never be dissociated from the local culture.
Ender was born into a humble family in 1793. His luck was to have received, in 1817, the Great Painting Prize, in the landscape category, a work that would be acquired by the Prince of Metternich. Since then, the monarch became his sponsor and the artist’s career took off. Ender traveled until his death in 1875.
In addition to the botanical record, “Ender and Brazil” brings panoramas from Outeiro da Glória, in Rio de Janeiro, each one with a different light of day.
Inside the houses, the women portrayed by him appear apart from the men, almost in a segregationist regime. For the enslaved, marginalization was unrestricted.
“The enslaved blacks who went crazy wandered shirtless in the streets”, states Bandeira, the historian. “It is very sad to realize that this reality has not changed in Brazil.”