Brecheret’s trajectory from one side of the Atlantic to the other is curious. That of an Italian immigrant artist whose works sometimes resurface as a reminder of his talent and his legacy to his two adopted countries: Brazil and France.
Vittorio Breheret (without the letter “C” in his last name) was born in Italy, in the city of Farnese. His family moved to Brazil when he was 10 years old. It was in Brazil that he adopted the name Victor Brecheret. At the age of 16, he went back to Italy to study sculpture in the workshop of Arturo Dazzi. In 1919, back in São Paulo, he worked on some architectural sites and was noticed by critics and artistic circles.
Thanks to a grant, he moved to Paris and France became his second home for a time.
Salons and exhibitions
Between 1921 and 1929, he exhibited regularly at the Salon d’Automne, the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français – Sculpture and Stone Engraving Section and the Salon des Indépendants.
In 1922, he was called back to Brazil to participate in the “Week of Modern Art” at the Theatro Municipal in São Paulo – the founding event of modernism in Brazil – where he presented 12 works on the female figure, which were acclaimed by Brazilian collectors and patrons.
The following year, he participated in the Salon d’Automne in Paris and in 1925 he exhibited at the Société des artistes français. He then alternated between France and Brazil until 1936.
During this period, he was influenced by the geometric volumes of Cubism, the formal synthesis of Constantin Brancusi and the stripped ornamentation of Art Deco. He demonstrates great technical mastery, exploring twists and volumes or making complex plays of light and shadow on his figures. His sculptures represent mainly human figures, many of which illustrate historical, mythological or allegorical themes. The figures are delicately worked, with generous curves, simplified and geometric features, decorated with precision and elegance.
His repertoire includes sculptures in granite, marble, wood, terracotta and bronze. He exploits the specific characteristics of these materials, particularly the surface textures that allow him to simplify the ornament.
He received his first award at the 1923 Salon d’Automne and his works were acquired by international collectors, such as Dona Olívia Guedes Penteado, who bought several of his sculptures as well as works by Picasso, Léger, Brancusi, Marie Laurencin, Foujita and André Lhote, during her stay in Paris, where she came to visit the Salons and artists’ studios.
Diana the Huntress
Marble sculpture executed in direct carving
Circa 1929 – 1930
Height Total: 64 cm (56 cm without the base) – Length: 79 cm – Width: 29 cm
20 000/30 000€
Religious and indigenous sculpture
From 1936, Brecheret, who had returned to live permanently in Brazil, turned to religious sculpture and the primitive forms of the Brazilian indigenous culture.
He began to build the “Monument to the Flags”, whose preliminary project dates back to 1920 but was not inaugurated until 1953 in the Armando Salles de Oliveira Square in São Paulo (now located in the Ibirapuera Park).
Virgin and child
Marble sculpture executed in direct carving
Height: 142 cm
15 000/20 000€
Brecheret’s native and indigenous art phase occupied the last decade of his life and was rewarded with prizes at the São Paulo International Biennial. He received numerous commissions for public sculptures and religious works during this period.
His works are in the collections of the main museums in Brazil.
France and the School of Paris
It was in France, however, that Brecheret became known as a member of the Ecole de Paris and participated in exhibitions of international importance. He received medals for his entries in the Salons and the French government awarded him the Légion d’Honneur in 1934.
Maurice Raynal writes about him:
“What he had come to France to seek was not only the spectacle of masterpieces that his technical education needed, but also that air of artistic freedom that he had never before breathed, and whose existence his instinct had revealed to him. He was soon convinced that statuary must naturally, without premeditation, obey the purely human destiny of plastic, its requirements, its needs, independently of the fragile and fugitive aspects due only to events, fashions, customs, tastes that circulate in time and among all latitudes.”
Maurice Raynal in “L’Amour de L’Art”
In our 20th Century Decorative Arts sale on June 28, we present three sculptures from a private European collection. The first is a representation of Diana the Huntress, dating from 1929-1930. It is a very sensual representation of the goddess, wearing a bouncy bun and gazing at a doe lying beside her. Then comes a stone sculpture of a “Couple of embracing doves”, posed on a high cubic terrace. And finally, a monumental sculpture of a “Virgin with an upright child”, 142 cm high, carved in a block of white marble.
Couple of embracing doves
Sculpture in millstone executed in direct carving
Height: 39 cm – Length: 33 cm
20th Century Decorative Arts and Design
June 28, 2023
Tajan, 37 rue des Mathurins 75008 Paris
Director of Decorative Arts & Design Department
T. +33 1 53 30 30 58