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Lula Cardoso Ayres

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Lula Cardoso Ayres

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Last update: 27/09/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Lula Cardoso Ayres was born in Recife on 26 September 1910 to João and Carolina Cardoso Ayres. His father was a sugarcane factory owner and was one of the owners of the Cucaú factory in Pernambuco.

He lived his childhood in a farm house on the banks of the Capibaribe River, in the neighbourhood of Madalena.

He began to study drawing and painting while still young, at the age of ten, with the German architect, sculpture, decorator, painter stained glass artist Heinrich Moser (1886-1947), a member of the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, in Bavaria, who lived in Recife.

On the importance of his apprenticeship with the German artist, Lula said:

I consider very important all I learnt, not as a student but as an assistant of Master Moser. He taught us from how you should wash a brush, the main working tool of a painter, to painting techniques. He would always tell me not to understand a painter from only one technique – oil, watercolour, gouache or Indian ink. He made us do everything, even paint on glass and retouch stained glass that he was making. My time together with Moser was from 1922 until the end of 1924.

It was Moser who commissioned him to paint the first panels he made for a Carnival at Clube Internacional do Recife.

In 1925 he went to Paris, where he had his first contact with modern art. He visited the 1st International Exposition of Decorative Arts, frequenting the workshops of some painters, like Maurice Denis, and touring several museums, coming into contact with the most current movements in Europe.

He returned to Brazil in 1930, going to reside in Rio de Janeiro. His father had moved to Rio to acquire a refinery in the city, as well as the Companhia União dos Refinadores (United Refiners Company), with other partners, in São Paulo.

In this period he became interested in sets for theatres, working mainly for Procópio Ferreira, who gave him carte blanche to create and was his great motivator.

Lula lived in Rio from 1930 until the end of 1932, a time in which he studied painting in open courses at the National School of Fine Arts, and where he met Cândido Portinari, who became his close friend.

He also studied with painter Carlos Chambelland, with whom he learned to design plaster models.

With the recrudescence of the sugar crisis at the end of 1932, he returned to Recife, at the request of his father, to help in the work of the factory. Lula, however, was unable to become interested by the work. He began to research the reality of the region. He also dedicated himself to photographic documentation, researching characters, scenes, costumes and attitudes, associating photography to his work in drawing and painting.

He participated in the exhibition of painting at the Afro-Brazilian Congress in Recife (1934), organised by Gilberto Freyre and Ulysses Pernambucano, becoming, from then on, very close to the master from Apipucos (Freyre). On this influence, Lula said: Really his work, [Gilberto Freyre] at that time, opened a door for me that was still closed, bringing my attention to the things that were the closest to us. To the social context […]”

He photographed and later drew in colour various Northeast Brazilian characters. He carried out field research, photographing Indians from the Fulni-ô tribe, in the municipality of Águas Belas, Pernambuco. He also painted series on clay dolls, ‘bumba-meu-boi’, ‘maracatu’ figures, animals and hauntings, among others.

His first exhibition was held in the 1940s, beginning in Recife and later going to São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other cities in the country. He showed in various other individual exhibitions in Brazil and abroad, including at the three first Biennials of São Paulo.

He completed around one hundred panels and mural in various Brazilian cities, including Recife, Salvador, Santos, São Paulo and Natal.

His paintings make up part of the archives of some Brazilian museums and private collections in Europe, North America and South America.
For Gilberto Freyre,

What he wished for was to saturate himself in the people, region and tradition… No Brazilian painter of any age, among the greatest, has been or is at the same time so modern and so of his land; so of his people; and, even, so overloaded from what is mysterious, irrational, spiritual in life, in the past, in the sufferings, joys, hopes and anxieties of his people [...]

Lula Cardoso Ayres died in Recife on 29 June 1987.
Recife, 11 May 2004.
(Updated on 31 August 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.


sources consulted

FREYRE, Gilberto. A síntese Lula Cardoso Ayres: arte, região, tempo [Introdução]. In: LULA Cardoso Ayres. São Paulo: Museu de Arte de São Paulo, 1960. Não paginado.
LULA cardoso Ayres. (foto na página Destaques do Mês, do Pesquisa Escolar, em setembro 2008). Disponível em:
<>. Acesso em: 1 set. 2008.
PERNAMBUCANOS em Brasília: pintores, escultores, cerâmicas, jóias. Brasília, DF: PRONAV, LBA [1986?].
VALLADARES, Clarival do Prado. Lula Cardoso Ayres: revisão crítica e atualidade. 2,ed, Rio de Janeiro: Spala Editora, 1979.  200p.

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Lula Cardoso Ayres. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.