Roberto Burle Marx , São Paulo, SP , Rio de Janeiro, RJ Arte e paisagem: conferências escolhidas (Nobel, ), de Roberto Burle Marx; Roberto. Roberto Burle Marx: Rio’s Ministry of Education and Health, designed by Lucio Costa and his (then) ambitious intern Oscar Niemeyer. The garden terrace was. This Pin was discovered by Dado Alcover. Discover (and save!) your own Pins on Pinterest.
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Damascus in Dahlem art and nature in burle Marx’ tropical landscape design 1. As any young member of the local elites with a disposition towards an artistic career, his family trip to Europe was an essential condition for close contact with the avant-garde tendencies of early 20th century. The discussion of what is involved in this game of mirrors is the aim of this paper. One of the main features of Roberto Burle Marx’s  official biography is the idea that he discovered the aesthetic qualities of tropical flora that came to characterize his famous new approach to landscape design during a juvenile visit to Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Gardens, in the s.
Having been born and brought up in Brazilian metropolises, he is supposed not to have had a previous contact with tropical spontaneous richness, thanks to the Europeanized taste that prevailed in their gardens and urban landscape at the time. As for any young member of the local elites with a disposition towards an artistic career, his family trip to Europe was an essential condition for establishing close contact with the avant-garde tendencies of early 20th century.
It was also usual for less fortunate prospective Brazilian artists to depend on government or on a private patron to allow for the “European trip” that would open the paths of a creative career. Ever since the 19th century, that pattern of contact with “civilization” had entailed the emergence of different trends of “nativist” renderings of metropolitan taste. The processes that led to this game of mirrors are the aim of my discussion, addressing the particular version of the tension between the ideas of art and nature that emerges in a Latin American artistic career in the 20 th century.
A passage from the entry for Burle Marx’ name [henceforth referred here as BM] in Wikipedia is quite explicit about his European conversion: Upon returning to Brazil inhe began collecting plants in and around his home” Wikipedia, 2.
In fact, the impact of the discovery of luxuriant Brazilian plants collected by Eichler cf. It was thanks to these visits that I experienced the desire to know our flora” apud Tabacow, The same theme appears in another interview: This is however not an isolated reference. His own description of the whole process of conversion to the cult of plants and gardens is considerably more complex.
Roberto Burle Marx:
These early memories include his artd rose-garden and pqisagem greenhouse with variegated species of the Caladium and Begonia genera, so typical of her tropical Recife whence they probably came.
They include also the emotion of the first radish taken directly from the soil, cultivated by the family’s Hungarian born governess. At the age of seven, already living in Rio de Janeiro, in a large villa near Copacabana beach, his first collection of plants began to grow, including a specimen of Alocasia cupreawhose beauty entirely astonished him.
His gardening interests inspired his father to subscribe to several specialized vurle, including the German Garten Schoenheit. These vegetal reminiscences are inextricable from the family’s immersion in art.
In the family moved to Berlin and BM plunged into the burgeoning artistic life of the Weimar republic. Besides the impact of tropical flora in Dahlem, inspiration flowed from art expositions; musical, theatrical and ballet novelties.
The road to Damascus was certainly broader. BM came to be a monument of Brazilian official identity, as the inventor of a new style of urban design, of landscape and gardening art. His manifold genius inspired an early public recognition as an icon of national creativity in the challenging period between the Revolution of and the military coup of His family background and his personal career had pushed him into a complex, hybrid and challenging identity: As a connoisseur with a successful professional career he never lost his amateurish universal ambition; as an overt homosexual, he attended the most prestigious levels of government and elite circles; as a devoted enthusiast of Brazilian society and nature, he maintained an entirely cosmopolitan life style and won international recognition.
He was thus an easy target for national reflexivity concerning the Western historical tension between civilization and nature, in the particular Latin-American guise of a clash between Europe and the Tropics.
He is reported as having brought all sorts of wild plants to the family garden, under the approving eye of his mother Oliveira, Even nowadays, the slopes of the hill behind Leme in spite of encroaching urban growth present a dense, deep green example of the Atlantic forest, typical of Brazil’s Eastern artd. After Independence, this pattern assumed new shapes, depending less on Portuguese mediation and varying according to the new social and economic processes that emphasized a more cosmopolitan and “modern” attitude.
Regular artistic and scientific exchanges had begun with the transfer of the Portuguese Court to Rio de Janeiro in This had been the burls for such influential artists as the architect A. Grandjean marc Montigny, the painter N. Taunay and his family cf.
Schwartz,the photographer Victor Frond cf. Segala, and the landscape architect A. In the opposite direction, a constant flow of rich young Brazilians to Europe became almost a prerequisite for successful careers in the liberal professions, in science and in the arts. In the latter area, it became usual for prospective Brazilian artists to take profit from their European experience to launch their creative careers, exploring the different possibilities of “nativist” versions of metropolitan taste 5 – mainly after the diffusion of paaisagem and its emphasis on historical and “natural” roots.
A pioneer in the blending of cosmopolitan tastes and tropical scenery was J. Debret, nephew and paisayem of J. Debret was the official artist of Independence and the First Empire in Brazil. It was only after World War II and the establishment of contemporary conditions of “globalization” that such exchanges came to be considered karx a regular dimension of all cultural life, disentangled from nationalist and nativist considerations.
The impulse towards hybridization grew intensely under the influence of romantic cosmology and imagery cf. Gusdorf, ; Taylor, ; Duarte, The emphasis on “nature” had entailed a series of crucial transformations in European high culture since the 18 th century.
Four, at least, have to be mentioned more specifically, since their influence can be traced as far ahead as BM’s life project.
First, there was an inner natural quality of the self that could be called “sensibility”, “creativity” or “authenticity,” that imposed new rules for life projects and artistic careers 7. In the second place, there was a new concern with gardens that had assumed in England the shape of the “landscape gardening”, a rejection of baroque conventions in favor of a “natural” lay-out, absence of walls and a prevalence of dense masses of greenery.
This was the landscape appropriate for the sensible souls in search of intimacy with nature. In the third place, there was an emphasis on the authenticity of popular national roots, with a growing concern with national origins and history 8. These new cosmological grounds imposed an intense investment in the dialogues and compromises between “nature” and “civilization”, always ambivalent and contradictory.
The challenge was as present in Europe as in the Americas, but tropical conditions seemed to enhance its dramatic qualities to an almost hysterical level. It is not possible to expatiate here about the way the four romantic ideals could materialize in 19 th century Brazil. Just a brief note on their relationship to gardens is necessary, so as to provide a better understanding of the myth of the conversion in Dahlem.
Until the beginning of the 19 th century, Brazilian gardening experience was very restricted, although monasteries and manors did have enclosed gardens in the medieval tradition, combining utilitarian and aesthetic concerns.
A major change emerged in the middle of the century as the Emperor decided to invite the French botanist Auguste F. Glaziou, to be engaged as the Director of Parks and Gardens of the Crown . Glaziou had been trained in the urban renewal of Paris, under the direction of Jean-Charles A. Alphand, who favored landscape gardening.
Terra, ; Leenhardt, As in Europe, the alternative styles known as “picturesque”, “gardenesque”, and “wild” came to influence the smaller gardens, surrounding the urban cottages of the bourgeoisie. In fact, the very gardens by Glaziou had won such general applause because of their hybrid quality, incorporating many native species to the main scheme of landscape gardens cf.
A peculiar mixture of native and exotic plants obeyed the logic of European patterns and designs, either in the grand direction of landscape gardens or in that of private middle class flower-bed gardens. In both of them an emphasis in individual specimens, remarkable for their flowers, fruits or perfume, prevailed; be it trees or shrubs.
Few public gardens had retained by then the spirit of landscape gardening, with its all green palette and its alluring perspectives. The Tijuca Forest, a public park in the same city, retains as well a certain flavor of the imperial taste. It was certain that they did not mirror the exuberance of tropical forests, but it was also certain that they were not entirely exogenous and “rootless” so to say. In fact, many biographies of the artists exposed to the experience of the European trip make explicit the fact that what was sigbnificant about the experience was not exactly the exposure to the new forms of high culture expression but rather the discovery of the inner “nature” they carried within them from their pristine origins, the forms of sensibility that had condensed in contact with their original “natural” environment and would henceforth be the guarantee and gauge of a prized “authenticity” 9.
Yet to be in Europe, exposed to the cream of Western civilization, to the acme of artistic expression, was an essential condition for conversion, the release of the inner forces that pulsed there, imperceptible, the touch of quicksilver that would catalyze the gold hidden amid brutish pebbles This is the general myth. BM’s version is peculiar because of the nature of the “nature” involved: The sensory references of the tropical world that BM carried in his juvenile memories were rearranged in a new “composition”, pre-ordained, so to say, as elements for further “associations”.
The raw material for other kinds of arts could not be organized in that manner.
The immediacy and concreteness of the references to original nature discovered in Dahlem could thus express in the most adequate way the spirit of the encompassing myth. With an irresistible intensity it rendered palpable what was essential for the process of paisagek of all the virtuosi in Western modern culture: A few further years of training ensued in Rio de Janeiro, in contact with important thinkers and artists in the Paiswgem Beaux-Arts School and the Art Institute of the University of the Distrito Federal Some biographers mmarx the importance of two books in these formative years.
Both are considered as “classics” of the modern interpretation of the nation: They stress the importance of native “roots”, the deep embeddedness of national identity in its natural milieu and its cultural origins. The success of his activities in landscape architecture led BM to increasing contact and exchange with botanists, botanical illustrators and photographers.
Roberto Burle Marx
In fact, he was acknowledged as a colleague by the botanical Brazilian community and participated in innumerable scientific expeditions to the interior of Brazil. This cooperation began during his first public service in Recife and reached its peak probably with the ambitious project of the Parque do Flamengo, in Rio de Janeiro. The biographers insist, certainly with good reason, on the importance of the intellectual and artistic circles that surrounded BM all through his life Cals, The ideal of the romantic wholeness was explicitly cultivated.
In an interview, BM said that it was one’s duty “not to restrict oneself to a single thing” apud Oliveira, These qualities of BM’s private life may be considered as indiscernible from certain qualities of his public, artistic activity. The “tropical world” became a rational entity as much a domain of sensory feeling. BM describes plants as a “vocabulary” out of which the language of gardens can take shape The trips around Brazil, the botanical collecting and the observation of many “natural” landscapes led him to develop a peculiar taste for certain formations that continually reappear in his projects: It is interesting that these systems are not the most typical examples of tropical exuberance.
They tend, rather, to be more sparse, to concentrate on fewer species, to present larger communities of the same associations and to allow for wider vistas and for a “cleaner” visual decoding. BM explicitly expected that the richness and variety of the flora of the inter-tropical belt could be translated into gardens conceived as “micro-climates” BM apud Leenhardt, In a similar sense, BM was interested in transitional formations, between different phytogeographical areas, where the possibilities of new compositions were naturally offered.
Again, the romantic spirit, with its emphasis on flux, on the dynamic qualities of organic world, seems to hover above him: Wholeness in the artistic production of BM could also mean a search for synesthesia: This dimension of the “total work of art” is obviously explicit in his own sense of an expressive life: But it is also present in his landscape compositions: