Marking the Royal Academy of Arts' 250th anniversary and the Royal Air Force centenary, an exhibition in London, hosted by the Embassy of Brazil will celebrate the almost-forgotten multifaceted role of Brazil during the Second World War.
Very little is known in the UK about the role that Brazil played during the war, most notably that they were the only South American country to fight alongside the Allies, with 25,000 Brazilian troops sent to the front in Italy.
An even lesser known fact is that, in 1944, 70 of the most prominent Brazilian modernist artists donated 168 artworks to form the first and largest Brazilian collective exhibition in the United Kingdom, held at the Royal Academy of Arts.
In addition to representing a cultural milestone, it was a gesture of solidarity, as these works were sold in support of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. When the paintings first arrived in the UK, a suitable venue to host the exhibition was yet to be determined, but eventually the Royal Academy ended up hosting the show out of necessity, partly because London was still under attack and other venues, including the National Gallery and the Tate, had been bombed.
Despite initially eliciting mixed feelings and misconceptions, the show turned out to be a major success. More than 100,000 people, including the Queen Mother, had their first contact with Brazilian art by visiting the show, which toured around the UK, and half of the artworks sold in favour of the war effort, while another 25 paintings entered public collections across the country.
Today will mark the launch of The Art of Diplomacy project, a commemorative exhibition, which reunites 24 from the original group of 168 works which remained in public collections in the UK. The paintings will be on display at the Embassy of Brazil in London from April to June 2018.