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Felícia Leirner

Felícia Leirner was born in Varsovia (Poland) in 1904. She came to Brazil, the country she adoted as her homeland, in 1927. A striking characteristic of her personality was her passion for animals and nature, which is reflected in her work. In 1962, the artist left the city of São Paulo for Campos de Jordão seeking a simpler and more relaxed lifestyle close to nature.

As of 1978, when the Felícia Leirner Museum was inaugurated, the artist intensified her work to increase the collection that can be seen today. In 1982, she concluded her production for the Museum. At home, Felícia continued working on hobbies like embroidery, drawing, writing, and creating smaller pieces in clay and then cast in bronze, most of which in the shape of birds. Felícia Leirner died in 1996, at 92 years of age, in her residence in São Paulo.

It was through the work of Felícia Leirner – considered one of the most important artists in the country – that contemporary sculpting from Brazil started gaining international features. After donating several pieces, the sculptress carved her name forever into the history of Campos do Jordão and the Brazilian visual arts.

Among her most significant achievements were the Acquisition AWARD of the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Arts in 1955, and the Best Brazilian Sculptor award during the São Paulo Biennial in 1963. In 1957, her sculptures were incorporated into the collection of the São Paulo Museum of Arts (Masp) and the Paris Museum of Modern Arts (Georges Pompidou Center), in France. Other international collections also took in her works, such as the Hermitage, in Russia, the Royale de Belgique, in Belgium, the Ein-Hod, in Israel, and the Modern Gallery of Belgrade, in Serbia.

Loved by her family, admired by a great number of artists and intellectuals, Felícia spent her last years between São Paulo and Campos do Jordão, whenever the temperature was mild. She passed in 1996 at 92 peacefully in her house in São Paulo.

“What I do: I arrange, disarrange, cut, mend, adjust, punch paper, fabric, everything within my reach, arranging, disarranging, modifying. So, what is it worth?
It is worth what I feel and modify”.

Felícia Leirner

Source: Morais, Frederico
“Felícia Leirner: Art as a Mission”
Hamburg Publishers, 1991.


1904: Felícia Leirner is born in the city of Varsovia, Poland.

1927: She migrates to Brazil, the country she adopted as homeland.

1948: At 44, she starts her sculpting studies with renowned artist Victor Brecheret.

1950 to 1958: Her first pieces correspond to the Figurative phase

1953 and 1955: Her importance as an artist is confirmed by her participation in the international biennials of São Paulo. In 1955, she receives the Acquisition AWARD from the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art. At the time, her work gains important national and international acknowledgement.

1957: Her sculptures are incorporated into the collection of the São Paulo Museum of Arts (MASP) and the Paris Museum of Modern Arts, followed by other important museums in Europe, such as the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam and the Tate Gallery, in London, which also add pieces by Felícia to their collections.

1958 to 1962: The already renowned artist enters a new stage of her art and her pieces become abstract.

1962: Shook up by the early demise of her husband Isai Leirner, Felícia moves from São Paulo to Campos do Jordão, to the house that was home to her pieces until 1978, when they are transferred to the recently-created Felícia Leirner Museum.

1963: The “Crosses” (1963) phase begins, followed by “Structurings” (1964/1965). Her work continues to be recognized in Brazil and abroad. At the 8th, 9th and 10th Biennials, her work is exposed in Special Rooms. Newspaper Correio do Brasil issues a commemorative stamp for the 10th Biennial, picking one of Felícia’s sculptures as illustration. Her work is taken in by other internationally renowned museums, such as the Hermitage (Russia), the Royale de Belgique (Belgium), the Ein-Hod (Israel) and the Modern Gallery of Belgrade.

1963: The São Paulo Biennial grants the artist the Best Brazilian Sculptor Award.

1966: Always seeking new shapes and materials, she leaves the clay, bronze and granite aside and starts producing large pieces in white cement, helped by workers in the region. This is the starting point of the “Habitaculi” (1966) phase, when she ventures in the architectural territory with habitable sculptures.

1970: The “Animals” phase begins, a curious and fantastic zoo of rich shapes. At the same time, she conceives a large set dedicated to “Men and the Family,” a very large piece (almost 8 meters long and 3 meters tall), also done in granite, located in the garden of Palácio dos Bandeirantes, the headquarters of the Government of the State of São Paulo. Felícia also started executing the great “Columns”, filled with cavities where rainwater could accumulate and refresh the birds, animals for which she has always demonstrated great fondness. The emblematic piece of this phase is “Saint Francis”, with open arms waiting to be visited by birds.

1978: Her love of nature and Campos do Jordão was consolidated with the creation of the Felícia Leirner Museum by the Government of the State of São Paulo. All the pieces she made and owned were donated by the artist to the newly-created museum.

1980: Felícia Leirner continues her work, producing pieces inside the museum. This is the phase of the “Portals”, with cutout, flat shapes distributed over the landscape as enigmatic messages.

1982: She frames a crooked tree in the garden with her sculpting. This is the end of her production in the museum. From that moment on, she seeks refuge in her house in Campos do Jordão, where, as always, she continues to play with her talents, such as embroidery, tapestry, drawing and writing. Felícia continued making smaller sculptures in clay and then cast in bronze, portraying mostly birds.

1996: Felícia Leirner dies peacefully at 92 in her home in São Paulo.

Pictures of Felícia Leirner

Here are some historical photos of Felicia: