Keynote Speakers

João Candido Portinari

Title: The Portinari Project - IR helps Art and Culture


In May 30, 1983, The New York Times published the article "Brazil Gathers Archive On Its Painter, Portinari". The author, Warren Hoge, narrates: "/The late Candido Portinari is considered here to be the greatest artist Brazil has ever produced, yet all but a few of his 4,000 paintings are out of public view. They have become dispersed in private collections in so many places that his biographer compared their fate to that of Brazil's 18th-century revolutionary hero Tiradentes, whose body was dismembered and strewn along a 300-mile turnpike. The inaccessibility of Portinari's work is particularly vexing to his enthusiasts because his own dedication to producing an epic view of Brazil for his countrymen was such that he continued painting even after doctors warned that exposure to paint was killing him. He died of lead poisoning at the age of 58. Now, in a pioneering effort for Latin America, a team of experts in Rio is busy assembling the far-flung pieces of Portinari's obra into an exhaustive computerized archive. '/We are trying to rescue what is authentically ours'/, said João Candido Portinari, the painter's 44-year-old son, who is the coordinator of the group of researchers who make their headquarters on the leafy campus of Rio's Pontifical Catholic University. A telecommunications engineer with a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former chairman of the university's mathematics department, Mr. Portinari has brought exacting technical standards to the task. Now four years into the project, the 14-member team has compiled photographic, technical, historical and bibliographical records on 3,800 of the paintings.../"

This presentation aims at describing the 26-year effort undertaken by the Portinari Project to locate, document, and record all prints, drawings and paintings created by the Brazilian artist Candido Portinari (1903-1962), as well as all documents pertaining to his work, life and times, and to transform these contents into a large multimedia database.

It is important to highlite the role of science and technology in this endeavour. It was fascinating to watch, over the years, how much, as the Portinari Project evolved, the advances of science and technology, and especially those related to IR, were able to address important challenges encountered in its development. In this presentation, a few examples of this process shall be described, such as the problem of identifying false paintings, the digital preservation of color images, the building of a complex multimedia knowledge database, etc.

We also present the social work of art education developed in making all this material available /in loco/ to a wide audience in Brazil and abroad, including school children, especially children from poverty-stricken families. This social inclusion action stems from the fact that Portinari was deeply concerned to devoting his life, as an artist and also as a political person, to social and human values. In his speech /Art in the United Nations/ at the .Palais des Nations., Geneve, Switzerland, Von Lauestein Massarani observed that:

    */Portinari bequeathed to his native Brazil paintings of great poetical intensity. He grew up on the vast coffee plantations of Brodosqui in the state of Sao Paulo and it is this social setting which provided the inspiration for his work. All its human, cultural and religious aspects, captured by Portinari.s brush, reveal him as a .chronicler. of the concerns of twentieth-century Brazil. A rich plastic quality and variety of expressions are qualitites which give singular appeal to this deeply inspired work. His paintings are the successful achievement of his objective throughout his life: to arouse a feeling of the dignity of man, of fraternity and community spirit/*.

*From these concerns, faithfully reflected in Portinari.s artistic legacy, we have been able to build an exceedingly powerful tool for developing a social action that has already involved more than 500,000 children for all over Brazil, as shall be demonstrated in our talk.

And finally we present one of the most important results of the project: "Candido Portinari - Catalogue /Raisonné/", published in September 2004, in 5 volumes, containing 4,991 works, with all their images and their technical, bibliographic and historical data. An example of the complexity of this undertaking is the work involved in /dating/ Portinari's oeuvre. Half of the works were undated and, /for each/ of these 2,500 works, it was necessary to cross it with 30,000 documents, to search if in a letter (6,000), in a periodical clipping (12,000), in a historical photograph (1,200), in an oral history recording (74 interviewed, 130-hour total recordings), etc., one could find information that would eventually lead to the date the work was created. The Portinari Project web site ( presents all 4,991 paintings, drawing and prints, and all 30,000 documents, with their links (7,219 links work-doc and 32,992 links doc-doc), as well as more than 9,586 people and 3,118 entities related to the painter.s universe. The works were classified according to their themes, in a tree containing 464 themes. A CD-ROM with the contents of the five volumes and a search engine is attached to the 5th volume, allowing for several searching keys, including the retrieval of works "by content", by entering a word contained in the work's description. The Catalogue /Raisonné/ also comprises a detailed chrono-biography of the artist's life and times, compiled from the 30,000 documents that form the Portinari Project archives. To complete this 26-year task, the team visited almost all Brazilian states and more than 20 countries in the three Americas, Europe and the Middle Orient. *

Bio Info:

A Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1966), João C. Portinari was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and did his undergraduate work at the Lycée Louis-Le-Grand and at the École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications, both in Paris, France.

Dr. Portinari was one of the founders of the Department of Mathematics of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro - PUC Rio. He was also the first director of this newly-founded unit.

Since 1979, Dr. Portinari heads the Portinari Project, which he conceived and implemented, also at PUC Rio.

As the head of the Portinari Project, Dr. Portinari has given a number of conferences and presentations by invitation, at public and private entities, in Brazil and abroad: the Funding Agency for Studies and Projects - FINEP, the National Research Council - CNPq, the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science - SBPC, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences - ABC, the Superior War School - ESG, a large number of federal and state universities, municipal and state culture, education and science&technology secretariats, research institutions and scientific congresses, the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics - IMPA, the National Laboratory for Scientific Computing - LNCC , the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics - CBPF, the National Institute for Space Research - INPE, the National Service for Data Processing - SERPRO, the National Center for Nuclear Studies - CNEN, the IBM Scientific Centre, the São Paulo Company for Light and Power - CPFL, the Coordination for Graduate Programs in Research and Education - COPPE, PETROBRAS, the Rio de Janeiro Institute for Research - IPRJ, the Museum of Image and Sound, the Afrânio Coutinho Literary Circle, the Bahia Museum of Art, the São Paulo Museum for Contemporary Art, the Museum of the Republic, the Central Bank, the Bank of Brazil, the Brazilian Societies for Computer Science, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Applied and Computational Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, History, among many others.

He delivered the Inaugural Lecture at the School of Communications and Arts - ECA, at the University of São Paulo; he was also a "Keynote Speaker" at the concluding lecture of COMDEX/Rio 95, and delivered the opening lecture at COMDEX/São Paulo/95. Dr. Portinari also delivered the Inaugural Lecture at the celebration of the 10th-Anniversary of the Ministry of Science and Technolgy, at the Brazilian National Congress.

Outside Brazil, he delivered the Inaugural Lecture at the /Berkeley Multimedia Research Center,/ at the University of California, in november 1995.

That same year, he was a "Keynote Speaker" in the concluding lecture of the /ED-MEDIA 95 - World Conference on Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia/, at the University of Graz, in Austria.

He also lectured at UNESCO (in Paris, by invitation of the Brazilian Special Computer Sciences Secretariat), at the Association for Brazilian Researchers and Students in France, at the /Maison des Sciences de l'Homme/, in Paris, at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (in Paris and also in Lisbon), at the /International Congress on Hypermedia and Interactive Media - ICHIM/, at the University of Cambridge, in England, among other events.

Dr. Portinari's main recent lectures:

  1. October 13th, 1999, at the Simposio Latinoamericano y del Caribe, Águas Calientes, Mexico;
  2. October 21st, 1999, Dr. Portinari delivered the Inaugural lecture of the Third Congress of Art and Science, at the Mario Schemberg Center, School of Communications and Arts of the University of São Paulo;
  3. October 22nd, 1999, at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of São Paulo;
  4. November 29th, 1999, at the First National Encounter Interlegis, Senate, Brazilian Congress;
  5. June 10th, 2000, at the Training Course in Science Museums and Centers at the Estação Ciência, University of São Paulo :
  6. June 14th, 2000, at the Brazilian Company for Agribusiness - EMBRAPA, University of São Carlos, São Paulo;
  7. September 19th, 2000, at the Science and Art Upgrading Course, at the Oswaldo Cruz Institute - Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro;
  8. December 1st, 2000, at the "Digital Theater" of The Library of Congress, Washington, USA;
  9. December 4th, 2000, at the Honors Humanities Program of the University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA;
  10. April 17th, 2001, at the Center for Conservation and Restoration -- CECOR, at the University of Minas Gerais;
  11. April 18th, 2001, at the Chamber of Deputies, in Brasília, by invitation of the President;
  12. May 8th, 2001, at the Science House of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro;
  13. May 31st, 2001, at the Klauss Vianna Theater, in Belo Horizonte, in the First National Seminar on Digitizing and Microfilming for Preservation;
  14. August 19th, 2003, at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo, SP;
  15. September 12th, 2003, for the National Educational Television and Radio Channels, Brasília, DF;
  16. December 16th, 2003, at the Minas Gerais Government Palace, by invitation of the Governor of the State of Minas Gerais, Aécio Neves, Belo Horizonte, MG;
  17. February 10th, 2004, at the São Paulo Biennial Foundation, São Paulo, SP;
  18. May 4th, 2004, at the Brazilian Embassy in the United Kingdom, by invitation of the Brazilian Ambassador, José Maurício Bustani, in London;
  19. July 1st, 2004, at the Rio Data Centro, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, PUC-Rio, Rio de Janeiro, RJ;
  20. July 2nd, 2004, at the Ministry for Government Communications and Strategy of the Presidency of Brazil - SECOM, Brasília, DF;
  21. September 6th, 2004, at the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires - MALBA, Buenos Aires, Argentina;
  22. September 19th, 2004, at the South American Festival, Corumbá, Mato Grosso;
  23. February 15th, 2005, at the National Fine Arts Museum of La Habana, Cuba;
  24. February 17th, 2005, at the Nicolás Guillén Foundation, La Habana, Cuba;
  25. February 24th, 2005, at the Fourth National Conference on Education and Culture, National Congress, Brasília, DF;
  26. April 18th, 2005, at the Seminar for the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials . SALALM@50, in Gainesville, Florida, USA.

Special presentations were also held, by invitation, for the following authorities:

  • President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
  • Vice-President José de Alencar
  • Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil
  • (former) Minister of Education Christóvam Buarque
  • Minister of Foreign Relations Celso Amorim
  • Governor of the State of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin
  • Governor of the State of Minas Gerais, Aécio Neves
  • Mayor of Brodowski, State of São Paulo, José Antonio Fabbri
  • (former) Secretary of Culture of the State of Rio de Janeiro Helena Severo
  • Secretary of Culture of the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro Ricardo Macieira
  • (former) Secretary of Culture of the State of São Paulo Claudia Costin

Copyright 2004, ACM. All rights reserved.