Beauty is an act of resistance. Ruth Naomi Floyd

Candido Portinari: Dead Child

ArtWay Visual Meditation June 3, 2018

Candido Portinari: Dead Child

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

by Thiago Bragantin

In 1944, while the world outside was suffering from World War II, the Christian Brazilian painter Candido Portinari created the series ‘Retirantes’ (Migrants), showing that even far from the war Brazil was still far from peace. This series of paintings depicting the exodus out of the driest region of Brazil reminds us of the pilgrimage of the Jewish people in the desert, unsure of their fate and destination, without the courage to look at the horizon, afraid of the infinitude of sand.

At its centre the painting Dead Child depicts a mother with her dead son sprawling in her arms. Around them the rest of the family is weeping bitterly, with tears made of stones matching the dry landscape. No help seems to come down from the sky, thus everyone cries with eyes downcast towards the earth. Old clothes and bodies hollowed out by hunger make us feel sorry for this family.

The mother holding the body of an innocent life taken by the evil of this world reminds us of Michelangelo's Pietà, which portrays Mary holding the dead body of Jesus in her arms. He, the Son of God, who became a miserable man and inhabited this fallen world offered himself as a sacrifice. The Father gave his own child and had to close his eyes when the beloved cried out, "Why have you forsaken me?”

Portinari reminds us of the humble condition of man, of how far we are from peace and that we cannot reach fullness life by our own efforts. He reminds us that God himself knows our suffering and came to share in our hardship, and that he died in order to achieve peace for each and all of us.


Candido Portinari: Dead Child (Criança morta), 1944, oil on canvas, 182 x 190 cm.

Candido Portinari (1903-1962) was a Brazilian visual artist. Portinari painted nearly 5000 works from small sketches and paintings of standard proportions, such as The Coffee Farmer, to giant murals such as the War and Peace panels, presented to the UN headquarters in New York in 1956. Portinari is considered one of the most prestigious artists in Brazil. He also gained international recognition. In his works Portinari managed to portray social issues without displeasing the government and incorporated modern art features without losing the admiration of the general public. His paintings display influences of cubism, surrealism and Mexican mural painters, without, however, distancing himself completely from figurative art.

Thiago Bragantin is Brazilian. He has a Bachelor of Philosophy from the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) and a Master of Divinity from the Theological Seminary Servant of Christ and one of the curators of the site  



1. ARTWAY – In the Art and Poetry section we combined a poem and an etching by the Czech poet and artist Bohuslav Reynek (1892-1971), click here

2. INDIA INTERNATIONAL ARTIST RESIDENCY – Nov 18–Dec 2, 2018, New Delhi, India: Applications open for annual 2-week international residency designed for six international and six Indian visual artists to engage in a cross-cultural setting with questions of what it means to be human.  Run by the Art for Change Foundation, a New Delhi-based arts organization with a vision to see art shape society with beauty and truth, the theme this year is: “The Simplicity of Being - Identity & Personhood in a Complex World.” The residency mentor for this year is Hartmuth Hanisch, an artist & pastor from Germany who will be leading us though an exploration of the concept of Personhood, exploring the idea of authenticity as it relates to our understanding of ourselves, our practice, and the social context around us.  The result of two weeks of collective reflection and individual creative processes will be show-cased in a one-week exhibition at a New Delhi art gallery.  Check it out at and sign up!

3. ACG VIDEOS ON VIMEO – A number of videos of events of the British Arts Centre Group (ACG) are available to watch on vimeo. They include segments from talks by ACG founder Nigel Goodwin, film director Norman Stone, ACG poetry competition winner Alwyn Marriage and Jack Clemo poetry competition organiser Tony Jasper. To watch please visit:  

4. NEW BOOK – Mose in Münster. Ein Reiseführer zu alttestamentlichen Kunstwerken (Moses in Münster: A Travel Guide to Old Testament Art) is a newly released German book edited by Ludger Hiepel, Michael Paaß and Gerrit Althüser and published by Ferdinand Schöningh (Paderborn). Münster is a city of art and also religion. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Johannes Brabender (1498-1561), Georg Meistermann (1911-1990) and many others have created works with biblical themes that can be visited in Münster: For example, Adam and Eve in Paradise, Moses at the Burning Bush, Noah and the Dove ... These pictures are more than illustrations of biblical texts. Rather, they exegete these texts in their own pictorial way: in colors, lines and surfaces.  Visual art interprets these texts. They are part of the whole history of biblical interpretation and through visual imagery uniquely accent facets of the biblical story. This volume is compiled by a team from the Faculty of Catholic Theology at the University of Münster from selected representations of the Old Testament in the city of Munster. The analysis of the images is accompanied by an analysis of the underlying Old Testament texts. This guide invites one in the course of visiting the city to explore texts from the Old Testament together with considering their visual interpretations.

For more exhibitions, lectures, conferences etc. inside and outside your country, click here

ArtWay is a website with resources for congregations and individuals concerned about linking art and faith.