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Vitalino

Lúcia Gaspar
Joaquim Nabuco Foundation Librarian
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Vitalino Pereira dos Santos was born on 10 July 1909 in Sítio Campos, in Caruaru, Pernambuco. He lived in Alto do Moura, a town approximately six kilometres from Caruaru.

The son of small farmers, he began working in clay art at the age of just 6 (1915). Like all children, he made animals – bulls, horses, goats – with the leftover clay used by his mother who was a ‘louceira’, the name given to women who make domestic utensils out of clay. He called this production ‘loiça de brincadeira’ (playful pottery). Vitalino graduated from loiça de brincadeira to figurative ceramics with the piece ‘Caçador de onça’: a margay in a tree top, cornered by a dog and with a hunter taking aim, which was sold at the Caruaru Market.

Owning a great musical talent, he learned to play the fife (a type of key-less flute with 7 holes) and at just 15 put together his own band, Zabumba Vitalino.

Inspired by Northeast Brazilian folklore, with a figurative style, he made the daily life of the rural inhabitants accessible to everyone with his personal mark. His work displayed the rural and also urban scenarios where they occurred: Cortejo nupcial (Wedding Procession), Casamento no mato (Wedding in the Forest), Enterro na rede (Hammock Funeral), Enterro no carro de boi (Ox Cart Funeral), Boi transportando cana (Ox Transporting Sugarcane), a Vaquejada (The Rodeo), o Vaqueiro que virou cachorro (The Cowboy Who Became a Dog), A luta do homem com o Lubishome (The Battle between the Man and the Werewolf), Boi transportando o vivo e o morto (Ox Transporting the Living and the Dead), Lampião a pé (Lampião Standing), Lampião and Maria Bonita. The social structure of the semi-arid region also appears in his work, through the representation of family solidarity: Agricultor voltando da roça com a família (Farmer Returning to the Field with his Family), Retirantes (Drought Refugees). In the urban sphere appear the dentist, photographer, steam train, PRA-8 Radio Station, the operation, lawyer and seamstress. There is also a Vitalino ceramist series, a self-potrait: Vitalino cavando barro (Vitalino Digging Clay), Vitalino trabalhando (Vitalino Working), Vitalino queimando a loiça (Vitalino Baking the Pottery), Vitalino e Manuel carregando a loiça (Vitalino and Manuel Carrying the Pottery). Vitalino also made ex-votos, according to the statements of his contemporaries Zé Caboclo and Zé Rodrigues.

The material he used for his pieces was massapê clay, which he took from the shores of the Ipojuca River and transported in baskets to his home. The clay was wetted and left in a deposit for two days to dry, then flattened and moulded. The pieces were baked in a circular oven, built in the open behind his house.

In the beginning, colour applied to the dolls was done with differently coloured clay - tauá, red, white. Later, Vitalino began to use industrial products in the painting of the dolls. In the first phase, the pieces had no potter’s mark. Later, the artist started marking them with a pencil and “the initials V.P.S in black ink on the underside of the base of the large groups”, and from 1947 began to use a stamp, also made of clay, with the same initials V.P.S, adopting in 1949 his baptismal name.

It was the visual artist Augusto Rodrigues who exposed the work of Vitalino to the rest of the country, organising in 1945 his first exhibition in Rio de Janeiro. While still alive, he donated 250 pieces to the Museum of Popular Art in Caruaru, fulfilling a request from the City Council.

He died poor, forgotten and without State assistance, a victim of smallpox on 20 January 1963.

After his death, in Alto do Moura, the Casa Museu Mestre Vitalino (Master Vitalino House Museum) was inaugurated, where his main pieces are on display. His production is estimated to be around 130 pieces, which are carefully reproduced by his family. Today his most valued works are from his first phase, especially those whose eyes are empty and unpainted. His children, grandchildren and great grandchildren continue his work to this day.

The production of master Vitalino is well represented at the Museum of the Northeast Man of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation.



Recife, 3 July 2003.
Updated on 16 September 2009.
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2011.
Updated on 27 july 2017.

 



SOURCES CONSULTED:

 

 

FROTA, Lelia Coelho. Mestre Vitalino. Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, 1986.
 
MESTRE Vitalino. Rio de Janeiro: Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, 1993.
 
RIBEIRO, René. Vitalino: ceramista popular do Nordeste. Recife: IJNPS, 1972.

 

 

HOW TO CITE THIS TEXT:

 

 

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Vitalino. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.

 

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