Regina Veiga

Image: Regina Veiga
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By PAULA RIBEIRO & PIERO DETONI*

Considerations on the works of the painter, designer and teacher

This article analyzes the works of the painter, draftsman and teacher Regina Veiga Vianna (1890-1968) produced between 1916 and 1950. Born in Rio de Janeiro and the daughter of a musician, Regina Veiga began her art studies in childhood. She had the support of her brother Raul Veiga (1878-1947), governor of the state between 1918 and 1922. Later joining the National School of Fine Arts (ENBA), the future artist took classes with the renowned painter and art teacher Rodolfo Amoedo (1857-1941).

We will analyze in this work, in parallel with general theoretical discussions, the following works: Nu, Rio de Janeiro e baianas. Regina Veiga is unknown to the general public and even to specialists in the history of art, making it necessary to retrace the route of her reception based on critical articles published in the press as a way of understanding her insertion in the field of plastic arts at a decisive moment, which that is, the one in which tensions are verified between the academicist heritages of the XNUMXth century and the pressures to update the ways of thinking and representing national art, already impacted by current modernist ideals and which started to be appropriated by different modalities of art. We emphasize that this tension is the very condition for the structuring of the field of arts in the first half of the XNUMXth century. Period in which, it is worth mentioning, the institutionalization of artistic production modes starts to be thought from the vector of professionalization and, even, of disciplinarization.

Regina Veiga is frequently mentioned by art critics of the period in which she worked, but her works remain little known and studied. In consulting the periodicals available between 1916 and 1950, attention was drawn to the large number of mentions that pointed to Veiga as one of the artists who best represented Brazilian art. Although she chose not to commercialize many of her productions, it is possible to identify from the few canvases that were acquired by Brazilian public institutions, or offered for sale to integrate private collections, that the artist explored different aesthetics and themes throughout her career. trajectory, and it is possible to find structuring discontinuities in his production, which proves to be difficult to frame, it being correct to say that he used multiple artistic languages, even if some guidelines are perceptible throughout his career.

Regina Veiga's work is in motion. In a shifting game of transformations that, more than making its aesthetics unclassifiable, emphasizes its adaptive, reconfigurative and appropriative strength, typical of peripheral artistic circuits. In any case, we identified the appreciation for themes of Afro-Brazilian culture, as well as the projection of a different look along with the presence of the female figure in art, especially with regard to academic nudes, a work that even considered traditional was, especially , performed by male artists. We will analyze, in this direction, how the artist from Rio de Janeiro treated these themes pictorially, in addition to establishing possible connections with aspects of her performance in the national artistic field, emphasizing, above all, gender performances.

That said, the first work we will analyze is “Naked" (s/d):

Image 1 – "Naked", by Regina Veiga, oil on canvas, 73 cm x 58 cm (undated)

Regina Veiga works with light and warm colors in order to highlight the human figure whose pose is reminiscent of goddesses often represented by naturalism, which was part of the painter's aesthetic repertoire at the beginning of her career. Even though there is a certain idealization of the female figure through the pose, and the naturalistic pictorial disposition is intensified, her gaze is not turned towards the viewer, suggesting some degree of introspection. The inner, or particular, world of the woman is highlighted and is connected to the scenario in which she finds herself, in which one can glimpse the visualization of the woman through a stream of water that distorts the imagery, perhaps indicating the existing mismatches between the ideal feminine and the real.

Light is responsible for operating contrast and movement, giving greater weight to the upper part of the landscape. It is interesting to note how the artist worked an external scene in order to make it intimate, inviting the spectator to participate in the moment of contemplation of the environment and of his own interior in relation to it, a strong characteristic of naturalist art. The differential would be the non-mimetic projection of the image of the woman in the water, which distorts not only a social projection, but the naturalistic realism itself, implying a reconfiguration of this aesthetic based on its own technical repertoires. In other words, a very particular anthropophagy.

Moving the female nude painting genre to the construction of a narrative like this is significant for two reasons. The nude requires the careful study of human anatomy, an activity that, at least until the 1920s, was not recommended for women who aspired to an artistic career. It was alleged that the study of the naked human body did not meet current moral values. Artists were responsible for executing so-called minor pictorial genres: landscape, still life or portraits. Thus, we see that Regina Veiga dedicated herself to an exclusive and demanding study in several senses with regard to the female presence.

The second factor is that the artist transforms the nude into an integration between the inner and outer world. The feminine universe represented by Veiga comes even before his body, and the environment in which he finds himself does not allow us to think of a simple female nude, as there is a richness of the setting, which evidences a form of externalization of the female figure detached from the patterns traditional. The movement of water, in a non-mimicry position, implies precisely the feminine placed in a non-prefigured state.

The image of the woman in the water does not faithfully represent her, in a coding arrangement. Thus, we see form and content dialoguing in a forceful way, as the visual protocols mobilized by the Brazilian artist destabilize the available female representations. Twisting female imagery through painting would be nothing more than directing a new statute for the condition of woman, since she is not subject to a canonized representation.

The image appears shapeless, blurred, not prefigured, which makes us perceive an image of a woman that transcends a socially imposed representation. The figure has realistic contours typical of naturalism, but the reflected image invokes a feeling of indiscernment and non-adequacy, which is what Veiga wanted. In her perspective, the intimacy of that woman projected to the exteriority of the scene would demonstrate a non-framing of gender – not conditioned nor imagetically by the spectrum of a socially shared representation. The two elements dialogue with each other and call the viewer to do the same: to reflect on the image of women in the mode of deconstruction, as well as the movement of water itself, which transpires an impressionist imagery, invoking a stable non-representation.

In 1923, Regina Veiga stood out in the Brazilian artistic scene, along with Georgina de Albuquerque (1885-1962), Angelina Agostini (1888-1973) and Zina Aita (1900-1967). It is important to point out that there is no single discourse within the scope of art criticism regarding the performances of artists in the First Republic. In certain articles mention is made, for example, of the “mental elevation” of women as the reason for their expressions of interest in art. On the other hand, the long process of exclusion to which they were subjected was justified as a kind of intellectual disability.

In both situations, the condition of woman is prior to artistic work itself. In any case, consistent social and representational barriers were imposed on Brazilian female painters, many of them in line with current feminist struggles, which appeared to be considerable impediments to emancipation being achieved through artistic performances, mostly instituted by modes of acting. (and regulation) male in terms of themes, concepts and perspectives.

In 1925 the Newspapers in Brazil presented a note on the individual exhibition organized by Regina Veiga at Jorge Gallery, one of the main artistic venues in Rio de Janeiro. The note mentions the various awards won by Regina Veiga at the EGBA's, in addition to commenting that her last participation as an exhibitor took place in São Paulo a few years earlier. This fact draws attention, since after his return from Paris, only three other participations in the General Expos were registered, between 1916 and 1918.

We believe, in a first reading, that upon returning to Brazil, the transformation operated in his style, manifested in works that destabilize the available canon, extended to the critical reception itself, which was also impacted by the new artistic-pictorial performativity mobilized by Regina Veiga . The artist began to exhibit in galleries and at events not linked to the ENBA, a prominent place for local academic art and the movement of an entire network of protocols, devices and references considered to move authority, not to mention her disposition of an art committed to the current hegemonic social standards, still with markedly elitist tones.

It is interesting to demonstrate that in the 1920s this place of authority conferred on ENBA confronted the expectations of the public, the criticism of new artists and new students due to a dynamic considered obsolete in relation to didactics, exhibition and modes conceived for circulation of national artistic production, closing itself, for example, to the updates printed by the modernist vanguards.

Na Jorge Gallery the painter exhibited 32 works, including portraits, nudes and Brazilian and European landscapes. From this set, not perceived as a closed whole, many works were acquired by collectors in the first days of the exhibition. Sincerity, taken as an autonomous disposition of the painter along with her work, is one of the aspects identified by the critics in the process of contrast with the local canon. Something that earns him, it should be noted, a lot of praise. We noticed, based on the available sources, that the question of gender in the artistic field was a point to which Regina Veiga addressed herself in a slightly more explicit way than other contemporary artists.

This is because the painter spoke out in publications on the subject, adopting for herself a confrontational position in the face of the growing debate about what the “new Woman” should or should not be, which moved female representations from the First Republic onwards. Veiga extended her combative stance both to her paintings and to the other arts to which she was also dedicated, namely, dance and music.

What Regina Veiga's trajectory indicates, both through her works and her posture as a woman-artist, is the emergence of forms of action that began to reconfigure the national artistic field, even if in a non-abrupt way and marked by the sharp discontinuity. The artists transcended, within the limits of those social constraints, the restrictive gender conventions that involved their work, their creation and even their profession. They started, therefore, to hold individual exhibitions, traveled to exhibit in other countries, elaborated exhibitions in non-consecrated and marginal spaces, breaking with the protocols of the art circuit and market, not only through their aesthetics, but through a new way of placing and moving through these new spaces, which became more plural, becoming, likewise, evidence of resistance to the parameters of the authorities in force. The new spaces, therefore, also indicated forms of torsion of the canon.

The Brazilian artist traveled abroad frequently, bringing the works produced to be exhibited and purchased in Brazil. At the time, the circulation and sale of paintings across the country demanded high consumption and office fees from artists or buyers. On one occasion, in 1927, Regina Veiga asked for an exemption to transport eight canvases on the English steamer “Almanzora”. We can infer that Regina Veiga was aware of the (im)possible ways of entering the national artistic field, from preparation, through production, to the very commercialization of her canvases through available art circuits and trades.

His intention was to walk along the edges, along the margins, as a way of minimally breaking with the layout of the field, which implied specific forms, visible and invisible, of favoring a circle of male artists, who not only dominated schools and the exhibitions, but the very circulation of the works. To break this dynamic, it would be necessary not only the innovations and aesthetic updates proposed, but an intervention along the transit paths of the works, already conditioned by exclusionary forms related to the issue of gender.

We do not have much information about the paths of her art, as well as her individual trajectory, in the 1930s, which highlights the disregard for the biographical and intellectual reconstruction of Brazilian artists. In any case, we will see that in the following decade her work undergoes transformations, incorporating themes and concepts typical of circulating modernisms. Even if we consider, thinking about the first movement of her aesthetics, strategies to confront the canon, as signaling the problems posed by women in struggle, we still see her, in one way or another, practicing her art through the meanders of academicism, which tended to to represent society through hegemonic aesthetic parameters, with white, Christian women and men of economic and social origin, as can be seen from the settings, clothing, gestures, etc.

In the 1940s there is a turning point, in which we perceive the painter dedicating herself to a whole imagery of Afro matrix, with aesthetics and themes close to what was called popular culture at the time. These new aesthetic regimes employed by Regina Veiga can be perceived, among other screens, from Rio de Janeiro, relatively well-known work.

Image 2 - "Rio de Janeiro", by Regina Veiga, oil on canvas, 91 cm x 61 cm (undated)

Two main planes are identified on the canvas, namely, the one that shows the beach with the people and the other where the boats are and the mountains in the background. The most informative part of the painting is responsible for promoting the game of plans, which also includes the city in an intermediate linking movement. The narrative is focused on the actions and interactions of the human figures, in the center, and the background was intentionally worked in cold colors to provide distance from the main scene. The aesthetic fits into what conventionally became known as post-impressionism, a derivation of the modernist appropriations carried out in the first decades of the XNUMXth century.

The balance between warm and cold colors provides a smooth scaling between planes, as well as guiding the notions of perspective and depth The narrative seeks to capture the scene in a natural way, in a single print, as if it were a glance which makes room for the subjective. Subjectivity is a striking feature of the artist's work, who knew how to explore the possibilities of this aestheticity in accordance with the style, technique and themes with which she worked, pressing the senses of the oneiric to the limit of what was possible, a disposition that lends destabilization to the representations figural.

The city of Rio de Janeiro was, in the first half of the XNUMXth century, a scenario frequently represented in the most diverse ways, above all, for being a place where tradition and modernity met, whether by tensions or through symbiotic or contrasting movements. . In Regina Veiga's painting that records the city, we find the figure of fishermen, something that escaped the more common representations that evoked the atmosphere of the city. Belle Epoque.

In Regina Veiga, the environment and human figures are in interaction. Her post-impressionist aesthetic invests in movement, which is always captured by a perspective that seeks to show some degree of naturalness. The image conveys an impression, and the category here is not unreasonable, one of simplicity, the human figures being perceived without the behavioral austerity typical of Belle Epoque. Not to mention that the choice of fishermen is also quite significant because they are considered marginal characters, looking like the portrait of ordinary people, in the sense of social distinction.

Naturalness appears as form and as content, from the perspective of post-impressionism and behavior, in which one wants to show a city in which the modes of social action are not subject to control. The aesthetics employed, thinking about the game between theme and technique, would also signal freedom of creation, and its post-impressionism, considered here as a modernist derivation, may also indicate a certain dreamlike presence, in the sense of the elaboration of a social representation to be constructed as a possible world. Whoever reads the work feels drawn into a fantasy atmosphere, of enchantment, as previously mentioned. A possible Brazilian world, we can point out, not constrained by the vectors of western modernity. There is a cadence of time in the representation, which would even point to a climate of maritime undertow.

Regina Veiga's work, from a certain moment in her career, more specifically around the 1940s, tends to assume a character, also, of a non-hegemonic cultural register, turning to themes of something that we can call popular daily life , in which social types, ways of acting, scenarios, behavioral impressions that are closer to reality are evidenced, even if the imagery does not present itself in a classic mimicking way. In baianas, for example, the elaborated representation distances itself from the figurational stereotypes projected together to blacks by academic painting, especially that practiced in the Rio de Janeiro x São Paulo axis.

Regina Veiga was also dedicated to dance, which led her to integrate this artistic language into her pictorial stylistics in a way that until then had not been much explored by artists from Rio de Janeiro from the ENBA, who, even with important fractures, such as the bordering modernisms, still appeared as the most authoritative place in the field of academic painting. This position is important because the intellectual movement operated by Regina Veiga is to fracture the canons of academic painting from what was approached/represented outside the legitimate circuits. So, she employs techniques, considered professional, through a non-academic aesthetic, which meant not only the election of new themes for representation, but a whole willingness to denaturalize authorized artistic protocols. The path taken by the artist is, in a way, the opposite of what was presented to those subjects, that is, she did not start from a supposed amateurism, a definition in itself already problematic, for professionalization. It, on the contrary, departed from the pole of academic consecration, being professional, towards the unconventional, the amateur, what was on the margins.

Image 3 - baianas, by Regina Veiga, oil on wood, 33 cm x 24 cm (1945)

Full of movement, this is a painting typical of his impressionist modernism. In the painting, one can see the dynamism of the poses centered on dance, something like a conversation, with interaction as the main theme. It is not by chance that reading the painting conveys the feeling that our eyes also “dance” from one side to the other, with no ideal order, or director, to be followed, as in works forged in the academy. Regina Veiga works the contrasts in a very marked way through her brushstrokes, giving the impression that her brush movements also follow some musicality.

The neutral background overlaps the white, the color highlighted in the center of the image, and the pastel tones. To connect the figures to the scenery, in the left corner, we see the brushstrokes marking the woman's feet, which seem to blend into the ground, which is no less important in terms of interpretation, given that it suggests a cosmic relationship between the human figures and the environment, something very typical of dances of African origin, which do not fail to point to some degree of ritual and contact with the sacred.

This work presents itself as a strong cultural record of Afro-Brazilian origin, a theme that the painter would work on other times in her career. It is interesting to highlight this point, because it is already visible, in the available literature and social sciences, an attempt to value the importance of Africanities in the national culture, however, in the visual arts, as in painting, this movement seems to be a little more late. It is also worth noting Regina Veiga's choice to portray black women.

The strength of the painting, in addition to valuing a marginal theme, lies in the mode of representation, in which it can be inferred that there is once again an important link between form and content, that is, the socially unconditioned representations, in which black women appear. in a dance movement that invokes forms of freedom of action and aesthetics devoid of the formal arrangements of hegemonic academic art. Veiga sought, from the dance of those women, to put the feminine in motion, in freedom of action, of feeling and of interacting with the historical world.

In the history of art, the study of an artist's trajectory and works can reveal the most varied contextual aspects of great relevance to historiography, complicating the understanding not only of an intellectual and epistemic landscape, but of an entire social disposition. . In this study, we propose a first approach to understanding the trajectory of the painter Regina Veiga, which certainly opens new angles for the perception of the cultural and social environment of the first half of the XNUMXth century in Brazil.

It is important to point out, at the outset, that we do not have much biographical data or accessible works for research, either by choice of the artist herself or for social issues, such as the one that concerns the gender perspective in terms of Brazilian visual arts. We know, and we work towards the reversal of this situation, that in the formation of the canon of the plastic arts in Brazil, the silencing, and even the erasure of women artists, was forceful.

In this way, we gathered easily accessible sources to present important points about his performance and his artistic performance. Given the lack of dating of some works, which does not fail to show the disregard for national artistic production, not to mention the possible silencing arising from the formation of a male canon and marked by the succession of artistic schools supposedly conceptually settled, we carried out a analysis starting from the very beginning of Veiga's career, in mid-1910, a period in which he devoted himself to the academic styles in vogue at the ENBA, gradually moving towards an aesthetic and conceptual (multidirectional) change after returning from a trip to Paris in 1916.

For the artist, from the point of view of elaborating representations of sociocultural aspects, music, dance and visual arts were interconnected. It is interesting to see how Regina Veiga was attentive to the most diverse forms of artistic expression, in a movement in which these vectors appear intertwined, crossed or combined, both in terms of technique and themes.

She was a multi-lingual artist, and this gesture was reflected in specific objects, such as her paintings. By bringing popular historicities to a mostly elitist artistic field, and linked to idealized and nationalist narratives of the history of Brazil, Veiga's art becomes avant-garde, even more so if we think about the torsion modes that he moves with the available canons, not only in terms of aesthetics, but even in relation to the modes of consecration, which implied interpersonal relationships and movement and circulation of works through spaces considered authorized/legitimated.

Inserted and dialoguing with specific contexts, as well as in a climate still restrictive to non-Western cultural manifestations, we believe that its way of representing Brazilian experiences carried different perspectives from those predominant in the artistic-academic field, and, also, showed itself to be relatively more radical than the efforts of the better-known modernisms.

Regina Veiga reinvented, or went towards this horizon, an entire national imagery. She updated techniques and themes posed by academic art based on avant-garde gestures. It imprinted an extreme technical sense together with the mobilized experimentalism, which we prefer to perceive as a more radical modernism for striving to produce the presence of non-Western forms inscribed in the horizons of the national experience. Her outstanding performance as a woman should also be remembered, operating forms of intervention in the face of gender policies through her work and activity as a professional artist.

This posture, situated contextually and flexing covert historicities, reveals little-explored horizons, such as the one that tends to downgrade the performances of the so-called academic painters, often considered to maintain the canons, being in a secondary position in the face of modernist innovations, something that the trajectory of Veiga contradicts it, making us perceive the artistic cultures of the first republican decades in terms of complexity and difference.

* Paula Ribeiro is a master's student in history at the Federal University of Ouro Preto (UFOP).

*Piero Detoni He holds a PhD in Social History from the University of São Paulo (USP).

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