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The National Archives loans items for Brazilian art exhibition

The National Archives is loaning documents and photographs for an exhibition which recreates the art works displayed at the first Brazilian modern art show in London in 1944.

During the Second World War, 168 Brazilian paintings crossed the Atlantic for an innovative exhibition. ‘Art of Diplomacy: Brazilian Modernism Painted for War’ now reunites 24 of these artworks for the first time since the original show, together with a selection of 14 archival documents and photographs on loan from The National Archives.

The items provide a unique insight into the build up to the launch of the art exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1944, as well as a photographic record of the exhibits and layout.

Jeff James, Chief Executive and Keeper of The National Archives, said: ‘The National Archives is always finding new ways for people to experience archival collections, and collaborating with others to open up our collections and our understanding of them. This exhibition reminds us how integral archives are to our cultural heritage and how they continue to inspire the imagination and stimulate the curious mind.’

Ann Chow, Records Specialist, Collection and Engagement Expertise department, commented: ‘This collaborative venture, which shows a selection of highlights extracted from Foreign Office files is an integral feature to the exhibition. These documents certainly add a different dimension and perspective when thinking more widely about the art history of exhibitions, and to what we would normally imagine about art in 1940s Britain.’

Highlights from the FO/371 file series include:

  • Correspondence by Anthony Eden (Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) who tries to persuade Alfred Mannings (President of the Royal Academy) to host the exhibition at the Royal Academy
  • A detailed Foreign Office account which outlines the success of the private view on 22 November 1944 and includes a postscript, ‘I have just heard that The Queen (Queen Elizabeth, later Queen Mother) visited the Exhibition today.’
  • Three photographs, one of which shows the Duchess of Kent and Sousa Leao, Charge d’Affaires of The Brazilian Embassy, at the exhibition, looking at the painting ‘Landscape’ by Quirino da Silva

‘The Art of Diplomacy: Brazilian Modernism’ is free to visit and runs until 22 June at Sala Brasil Arts Centre, the gallery of the Embassy of Brazil.

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