Zelia Ferreira Salgado (São Paulo 1904 – Rio de Janeiro 2009) sculptor, painter, designer, teacher.


She was born in São Paulo but lived in Rio de janeiro since 1915 – she started her painting studies in the studio of two brothers of mexican origin – Henrique Bernardelli (painter 1857-1936) and Rodolpho Bernardelli (sculptor 1852 – 1924 ). Soon after she completed her studies at the Fine Arts Academy (EBA, 1924 ).

She received an award from the Fine Arts Academy which enabled her to study and work in Paris (1930 and 1937-1938) with Othon Friesz (1879 – 1049), Robert Wlerick (1882 – 1944) and Isaac Dobrinsky (1891 – 1973) at the La Grande Chaumière Academy.

Only in 1946 she decided to have her own individual exibit – children´s portraits – well received by the critics, as Antonio Bento from newspaper “Diário Carioca” wrote: “At first glance, I noticed a sure hand to choose the colours. Many of her paintings reveal a sophisticated taste that was not so usual in Brazilian paintings!”.

In 1948, Santa Rosa renowned art critic said that Zélia Salgado achieved “one of the most beautiful aims a painter may wish: evolution in the search for the forms of her time, to reach an interpretation of her own world within the rhythm of present ideas”.

In 1950, she starts her own studio in Ipanema. By the mid 50´s, Zélia was well-known at home and abroad, taking part in the first 5 Biennials in São Paulo, Modern Art Exhibit and the Modern Art Museums of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In 1953, she exhibits at the first National Abstract Art Salon, and took part of the Informal Abstract Art movement in Brazil.

She starts teaching sculpture in 1954 at the Museum of Modern Art – MAM in Rio de Janeiro where she works together with engraver Fayga Ostrower, until 1959.

She receives the Silver Medal for sculpture at the Modern Art Exhibit of São Paulo in 1955.

At her first individual exhibit in MAM – São Paulo, in 1956, Brazil’s top critic at the time, Mario Pedrosa, wrote : “Painting helped her to reach this final dialogue with the stone which could be, besides aluminum, bronze, iron, her favourite material.”

Zélia Salgado becomes a member of the Fine Arts National Board between 1962 and 1963, and in 1963 she heads the Brazilian Section of the International Association of Fine Arts (IAPA) affiliated to UNESCO.

In the 60´s she prepares a series of abstract sculptures in bronze; according to art critic A.P. d´Horta “in these works there is always an impulse that tries to justify itself, thus allowing them to be representative and non-figurative at the same time” . According to Fayga Ostrower “Zélia found a certain pre-establishment in these works: the sense of adequacy. For example you can see the firmness she has in limiting the formats, intimate and small, without restraining the monumentality of the movements”. Art critic Geraldo Ferraz from newspaper O Estado de São Paulo wrote in 1966: “Zélia Salgado is above all an artist with a serious background, a serious development and an earnest participation in Brazilian art“.

In the 70´s Zélia Salgado has to work less to help her husband Paulino Salgado manage his farm, and yet she still exhibits in various places about Brazilian Art, deserving a great retrospective exhibit with 150 works at the Armando Álvarez Penteado Foundation in 1988, in São Paulo.

Her last works – drawings and abstract paintings – are from 1990 and 1994 In 2000, her career was the focus of a video documentary by Pedro Rosa, “Abstract Aspirations” – same name of the exhibit – opening in 2002 at the CEDIM Space dedicated to women, in Rio, where part of her abstract work is shown to the public. In 2004, she attends a homage for a final retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts, former School of Fine Arts where she had studied some 80 years before: “Zélia Salgado, 100 years of action and lucidity”. It included drawings, sculptures, paintings and her last works – some of which now part of the Museum’s collection.

Zélia Salgado fades away in August 2009 a few months before turning 105 years old, leaving a legacy of intelligence, lucidity, sensibility and an artistic coherence to be rediscovered and celebrated.