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The Art of JAMA
August 7, 2013

Alone in Green: Antônio Henrique Amaral

JAMA. 2013;310(5):462-463. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.5236

The subject of Alone in Green, by the Brazilian painter Antônio Henrique Amaral (1935-     ), is the torment of the nation of Brazil under its oppressive dictatorship of the 1960s and 1970s. In this painting, Brazilian society is symbolized as a spoiled banana choked by tightly knotted ropes. Today the Federative Republic of Brazil is an open, democratic society and one of the world's fastest growing major economies. An international leader in sports and other peaceful pursuits, Brazil will host the FIFA World Cup football tournament in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. It is true that Brazil faces major social challenges; in the summer of 2013, demonstrators have taken to the streets of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and cities all across Brazil to protest the expense of the sports tournaments and to demand more spending on health care and education; but 50 years ago, Brazil was facing a much darker future. In April 1964 the democratically elected but corrupt government of President João Goulart was overthrown by a military faction in a coup d’état. The new military regime censored artists, writers, and musicians and justified the use of banishment, torture, and assassination as necessary to fight a smoldering guerilla war. Amaral was one of many Brazilian painters and musicians to make the government’s oppression during this period the focus of his art. To circumvent the government censors, he hid the message of his paintings in plain sight, using the symbol of the banana to represent what it meant to be Brazilian at this time in his country’s history. Between 1968 and 1975 he created more than 200 paintings of bananas in stages of decay and scenes of persecution inflicted with knives, forks, and ropes.