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Mestre Vitalino

Vitalino Pereira dos Santos, Mestre Vitalino, is an iconic figure in Brazilian folk art. He was born in 1909, in the village of Ribeira dos Campos, near Alto do Moura, in Caruaru (PE). Raised in a brickyard, he began modeling small clay oxen and other animals as toys, which were then sold at the local market. It was these sculptures that called attention to the vast field of popular artistic creation in the major urban centers. Introduced to the public in 1947, at a group show organized in Rio de Janeiro, which featured the work of craftsmen and folk artists from Pernambuco, Mestre Vitalino became a leading figure in the world of folk art, little known until then. There were a number of stories told about him, many of which acquired an almost mythical dimension. This made it possible for us to understand the harsh realities of life in the backlands of the Northeast in the 1940s in a new way, hitherto unthinkable: from the point of view of the principal protagonists themselves through the art. Vitalino is known as “Mestre” for his virtuosity and for his leadership among the other potters in his region. He died at home on January 20, 1963, the victim of smallpox, at 53 years of age.

Angela Mascelani