The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) presents Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx, celebrating influential Brazilian modernist artist, landscape architect, and plant explorer and conservationist Roberto Burle Marx, from June 8 through September 29, 2019. NYBG’s largest botanical exhibition ever, it is also the first to combine a horticultural tribute to Burle Marx’s design work, featuring lush gardens, with a curated gallery of his vibrant paintings, drawings, and textiles, revealing deep connections between his artistic practice and his commitment to environmental conservation. Engaging public programming showcases the sights and sounds of Brazil and its lively contributions to music and dance evoking Rio de Janeiro, the “Cidade Maravilhosa” (“Wonderful City”) that Roberto Burle Marx called home and inspired his life and work.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Roberto Burle Marx (August 4, 1909, São Paulo – June 4, 1994, Rio de Janeiro) was a Brazilian landscape architect (as well as a painter, print maker, ecologist, naturalist, artist and musician) whose designs of parks and gardens made him world famous. He is accredited with having introduced modernist landscape architecture to Brazil. He was known as a modern nature artist and a public urban space designer.
Robert Burle Marx’s father was an emigrant from the city Trier in Germany. His mother was Brazilian from the “upper class”.
Burle Marx’s first landscaping inspirations came while studying painting in Germany, where he often visited the Dahlem Botanical Gardens and first learned about Brazil’s native flora. Upon returning to Brazil in 1930, he began collecting plants in and around his home. In 1932, Burle Marx designed his first landscape for a private residence by the architects Lucio Costa and Gregori Warchavchik.
In 1949 he acquired the 365,000m² estate Barra de Guaratiba (just outside of Rio de Janeiro) to house his growing collection of plants. This property was donated to the Brazilian government in 1985 and became a national monument. Now called Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, under the direction of IPHAN-Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional / Ministério da Cultura, it houses over 3,500 species of plants. The house was rebuilt in a valley on the site of a garden house belonging to the original plantation estate.
Roberto Burle Marx founded a landscape studio in 1955 and in the same year he founded a landscape company, called Burle Marx & Cia. Ltda.
Much of his work has a sense of timelessness and perfection. His aesthetics were often nature based, for example, never mixing flower colors, utilization of big groups of the same specimen, using native plants and making a rocky field into a relaxing garden. He was very interested in each plant’s character and what effect that has on the whole garden.
He spent a lot of time in the Brazilian forests where he was able to study and explore. This enabled him to add significantly to the botanical sciences, by discovering new rocks and plants for example. At least 30 plants bear his name.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN