Brazil’s version of the Marx Brothers is considerably more artistic than the American cut-ups with the same name.
The creations of two of the brothers — jeweler Haroldo Burle Marx and the more multidisciplinary Roberto Burle Marx — are now on view at the Wright Gallery. And visitors to the Upper East Side venue will hear music by the third brother, Walter. Time magazine referred to the trio in a 1967 article as “the most amazing and talented brother act in Brazil.”
And with good reason — Haroldo was a master jeweler who trained as a lapidary and gemologist. For more than 40 years, his designs were sought after by Queen Elizabeth, Natalie Wood, Valentino and Indira Gandhi. Walter was a child prodigy who later soared as a pianist, composer and conductor. While Roberto, a landscape architect, is associated with the more than 2,000 gardens he designed and the 50 plants that are named for him, was more of a Renaissance man. So much so, that through Sept. 18, visitors at The Jewish Museum can walk through “Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist,” which explores how he first took to Modernism in the Thirties and excelled in numerous mediums beyond landscape design including painting, sculpting, textiles, jewelry, theater sets, costumes, stained glass, ceramics, botany and even cooking. Roberto, the middle brother, was credited with being “the real creator of the modern garden” by the American Institute of Architects in 1965, when he won the group’s Fine Art prize. He was also among the first in Brazil to speak out about needing to save the rain forest. All of the brothers died in the Nineties.
After leaving Germany at the turn of the 20th century and settling in Brazil, their father Wilhelm, a distant relative of the revolutionary socialist Karl Marx started a large tannery. His wife, Cecilia, made their home in Rio a well-cultured one where artists like opera tenor Enrico Caruso shared their gifts.
Organized with the Mahnaz Collection, the Wright Gallery’s “Forma Livre: The Jewelry of Brazil’s Burle Marx Brothers” showcases the jewelry of Haroldo and Roberto. “Forma Livre” refers to the free-form style of cut that they pioneered with their Brazilian sculptural gemstones. Among the nearly 40 pieces are a carved rhodochrosite ring, a carved green tourmaline brooch and a carved aquamarine necklace — all of which are in 18-karat gold. Travelers, who have walked along the two-and-a-half mile Copacabana promenade in Rio, which Roberto created, may see faint similarities in his jewelry designs. A sampling of his drawings, sculptures and textiles are also on view, as well as select Brazilian furniture from R & Co. A limited number of the works are available for sale.
As an enterprising Modernist jeweler, Haroldo Burle Marx ran his own shop abuzz with skillful artisans. He also was a big promoter of Brazil’s gems such as opal aquamarine, tourmaline, beryl, amazonite, citrine and amethyst, and catered to Brazilian cultural and political figures as well. On their own, and at times together, the two brothers approached jewelry design as an architect would, drafting drawings and making scale models for each of their creations.
The Mahnaz Collection’s Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos said, “Roberto Burle Marx and Haroldo Burle Marx’s jewels, made between the Forties and the Eighties, are superb ambassadors of Brazilian modernist era jewelry. They deserve a new focus and to be more widely known.”
Photographer Adam Bartos, Nina Griscom, Estrellita Brodsky and Noreen Buckfire are expected guests at tonight’s opening party at the Madison Avenue gallery.