Edited by Anna Popper

On the occasion of Earth Day 2023, the exhibition “O Brasil aos dos dos artistas” was inaugurated in the Hungarian Natural History Museum on 22 April, giving an insight into the vibrant beauty of Brazil through the works of the German-born painter Wilhelm Wöller and the young Brazilian photographer Lucas Lenci. Stuffed exotic birds from the collection of the Hungarian Museum of Natural Sciences also complete the display.

Mr. Zsolt Bernert, Director General of the Hungarian Natural History Museum welcomed the audience interested in the extremely rich and diverse nature and wildlife of Brazil, many of which can only be found there on Earth.

In her opening speech, H.E. Susan Kleebank, Ambassador of Brazil to Hungary introduced the joint exhibition “Brazil through the eyes of artists”, organised in cooperation between the Brazilian Embassy in Budapest and the Hungarian Museum of Natural Sciences. The exhibition is dedicated to two very authentic artists: featuring images of Brazilian birds and landscapes by photographer Lucas Lenci, and reproductions of works by Wilhelm Wöller portraying the amazing nature of Brazil in his expressionist style, while he lived in Brazil between 1939-1949.

Brazil in Wilhelm Wöller’s Expressionism

Wilhelm Wöller (1907-1954) attended the crafts and applied arts school and then studied at the art academies in Dresden and Berlin. In 1936, his first – and only – solo exhibition in Germany with 14 watercolours in the Ferdinand-Möller-Galerie in Berlin was closed 20 minutes after the opening by the Gestapo and his works were classified as ‘degenerate art’. In 1938, he tried unsuccessfully to flee via Lithuania. It was only in 1939 that he managed to escape from the Nazi regime to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Unable to survive in Brazil with his art, he worked as a set designer for film companies. He travelled to the Amazon and was fascinated by the colours and the exuberance of the country.

In April 1945, when Germany already lost in the war in Europe, an exhibition “Degenerate Art was held at the Askanazy Gallery in Rio de Janeiro, presenting German Expressionism with paintings by Max Beckmann, Lovis Corinth, Ernst Heckel, Otto Dix, Lionel Feininger, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Kirchner, Paul Klee, Käthe Kollwitz and Oscar Kokoschka. Seven of Wöller’s works were on display, and one of his paintings was stabbed by three young Nazi sympathizers. The aim of the event was to gain support from the local public and make modern art stand as a synonym of freedom of expression.

Between 1946 and 1947, Wöller travelled to the Amazon region several times. The rainforest has strongly influenced his style. In 1948, under the patronage of the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro, the solo exhibition Rio Abstrato with 44 watercolours by Wöller took place.

In 1949, he moved to the United States to work as a set designer for the CBS television network. In the USA he met Dorothy Redden, married for the third time and went through a mystical phase in which he painted the crucified Christ several times.

In 1954, he returned for the first time to Germany – which was still badly damaged – for six months to prepare an exhibition there. But that never happened, because after returning to New York he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 47. He was buried in Long Island, New York, USA.

In Brazil, the quality of his art continues to be preserved. The family of art collector Felipe Junqueira held an exhibition at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo in 1981.

In 2014, Casa Stefan Zweig organised the exhibition Um Expressionista no Rio and produced a short film about Wöller’s life and work in Petrópolis and Rio de Janeiro. Wöller’s name is mentioned in the book The German Expressionists, as one of the forgotten supporters of the artistic movement Die Brücke (The Bridge).

Wilhelm Wöller’s works have been featured on several exhibitions and have been offered at auctions multiple times.

Lucas Lenci: Still Life

The exhibition presents 20 of the 99 images taken by the young Brazilian photographer Lucas Lenci during his four-year research on stuffed birds in various Brazilian and French museums. Through his artistic approach and the play of light on a dark background, he brings to life the images of the birds he depicts. His artworks not only capture the beauty and diversity of birds, but also captivate audiences with the illusion that birds are alive and want to fly.

The 20 photos are part of the “Still Life” series, taken in 2020 and showcased in the exhibition “Brazil in the Scheier Family Archives” in 2021, at the Consulate General of Brazil in Geneva. The birds featured in the exhibition were identified by Brazilian ornithologist Marco Aurelio Crozariol.

The exhibition in Budapest has been completed with stuffed exotic birds from the collection of the Hungarian Museum of Natural Sciences, that are on display.

The opening ceremony was attended by H.E. Edgard Arturo Pérez Alván, Ambassador of the Republic of Peru to Hungary, H.E. José Ramón Rivero González, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to Hungary and Dr. Gábor Székely, Government Chief Advisor at the Ministry of Culture and Innovation.

The exhibition can be visited until the Long Night of Museums (24 June 2023).

Source: Embassy of Brazil in Budapest,

Hungarian Museum of Natural Sciences