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Jacques Van de Beuque

From France to Brazil

Born in Bavay, in Northern France in 1922, Jacques Van de Beuque was enrolled in fine arts programs in Valencienne and Lyon until the start of World War II when, like many other French men and women, he joined the French Resistance. He was arrested many times and sent to a concentration camp in Kiel, Germany where he was held for almost two years.

On April 20, 1944, some months before the end of the War, Jacques managed to escape from the camp. He wanted to leave France, leave Europe. He needed light, he needed nature and human warmth to wash away the terrible years of war.

In Paris he met Brazilian painter Cândido Portinari. They became friends and talked about their respective dreams. Hearing of Jacques’ dreams, Portinari told him: “Go to Brazil. Rio de Janeiro is lovely, there is sunlight, it is bright and colorful and the people are very open and hospitable.”

With little more information that that, Jacques embarked for Brazil. He knew that here, at the time, people of culture spoke French. In France, Brazil was known as a country where there was no racial segregation. The image of a country with a mixture of races was carried to Paris by various means, including the works of Jorge Amado. For someone who has experienced the pain born of intolerance of differences, this seemed to him to be his best choice.

From the time he arrived, Van de Breque fell in love with the small clay figures created by folk artists. He began to travel and acquire their work, visiting villages and towns, interviewing artists and allowing himself to be captivated by their lives. With some of the artists he developed long-lasting friendships. By the time he turned 40 he had accumulated one of the most complete collections of Brazilian folk art produced during the last half of the Twentieth Century.