The Bernardelli Brothers

Siblings of Italian artists, a violin player and a ballerina of the Milan Conservatory, the Bernardelli brothers – Rodolfo and Henrique – arrived in Brazil in the middle of the 19th century, where they would have an important duty in local art.

José Maria Oscar Rodolfo Bernardelli

(Guadalajara, Mexico 1852 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1931)

Sculptor and master of arts. He leaves Mexico with his family to resettle in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, around 1866. The family moves to Rio de Janeiro where his parents would be the preceptors of princesses Isabel (1846-1921) and Leopoldina (1847-1871), by invitation of the Emperor Dom Pedro II (1825-1891). At 18 he enrolls at sculpture classes of statuary with master Chaves Pinheiro (1822-1884) and standing model drawing at the Imperial Fine Arts Academy – Aiba. As a pension pupil he star in Rome from 1877 ’til 1884, studying with masters Achille d’Orsi (1845-1929) and Giulio Monteverde (1837-1917). When returning to Brazil he teaches sculpture at the Aiba, substituting Chaves Pinheiro. Considered one of the reformers of artistic teaching in Brazil, Rodolfo Bernardelli is, between 1890 and 1915, the first director of the new National School of Fine Arts – ENBA. During his term the free student category was included and the Fine Arts Superior Council created, and proposes to build newer offices at the recently cut Avenida Rio Branco. IN Madrid in 1919 he is announced honorary academician at the Royal Fine Arts Academy of San Fernando. In 1931 the Bernardelli Nucleus is founded in Rio de Janeiro paying homage to the Bernardelli brothers.

Henrique Bernardelli

(Valparaiso, Chile 1858 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1936).

Painter, draughtsman, engraver, master of Arts. Brother of sculptor Rodolfo Bernardelli (1852-1931) and of the violinist and painter Felix Bernardelli (1862-1905). His family resettles in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, around 1866. They move in 1867 to Rio de Janeiro.Three years later he enrolls at the Imperial Fine Arts Academy – Aiba, altogether with his brother Rodolfo. He is a pupil of Zeferino da Costa (1840-1915), Agostinho da Motta (1824-1878) and of painter Vitor Meirelles (1832-1903). He travels to Italy in 1878. In Rome, he frequents Domenico Morelli’s workshop, with whom he studies until 1886, returning that same year to Brazil for an individual exhibition, for much interest and local scandal. Among other works he presents Tarantela (1886), Maternity (1878), Messalina (1880), Model at Rest (ca. 1881) and At Noon.

He teaches at the National Fine Arts School (ENBA) from 1891 to 1905, when not accepting his contract renewal, stressing that the institution needed to refreshen its teaching staff. He teaches in a private workshop together with his brother downtown Rio, with pupils such as Lucílio de Albuquerque (1885-1962) and Georgina de Albuquerque (1885-1962), Eugênio Latour (1874-1942), Hélios Seelinger (1878-1965) and Arthur Timótheo da Costa (1822-1922).

During the 1890s, he delivers several important decorative works, such as the indoor panel paintings for the Municipal Theater, the panels The Domination of Man upon Nature Forces and Fight for Freedom for the National Library, all in Rio de Janeiro, and for the Paulista Museum in São Paulo.

Of special highlight are the 22 medallions a fresco which presently decorate the façade of the National Museum of Fine Arts (MNBA), which were exposed at the ENBA Saloon in 1916. In 1931 many unsatisfied painters organise collectively thus creating a group targeted at technical improvement and artistic teaching reforming, named The Bernardelli Nucleus to pay homage to Henrique and Rodolfo art masters.