Skip to content

Francisco Brennand: Sculptor of Sensual, Natural and Mythological Art

July 13, 2009


Written by Paul Barnett

Francisco Brennand is one of the most important and celebrated artists in Brazil. He was born on June 11th 1927, the son of a wealthy industrialist, Ricardo Monteiro Brennand, whose Irish family had arrived in Brazil in 1823 to work as peasant farmers.  The unmarried daughter of a sugar magnate took a liking to Brennand’s father, who was employed by her father.  She later inherited her father’s property, and when she died, willed her entire estate and immense wealth to Ricardo Brennand.

From an early age, he worked at the São João Pottery his father had founded in 1917, and he was an informal pupil of potter Abelardo da Hora.   He also developed drawing skills, made caricatures, and illustrated the poems of his contemporary, Ariano Suassuna.  His talent for painting was helped when his father invited several artists to paint landscapes surrounding the São João Engenho (sugar mill), including Álvaro Amorim, Balthazar de Cãmara, Mário Nunes and Murillo La Greca.  Brennand later became a student of La Greca, whose work can be seen at the gallery named after him in Recife.

It was with La Greca that Brennand created his first sculpture A Cabeça de Deborah (Deborah´s Head).  In 1947, he received his first prize for painting from the Art Salon of the State Museum of Pernambuco.  Two years later he travelled to Europe to study ceramics, visiting France, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain and Italy.  During his travels he was influenced by Picasso, Miró, Léger and Gaudi. When he came back to Recife, he revisited the São João Pottery, which had been idle since 1945 and lay in ruins.  Then, in 1971, he set about restoring the site, situated close to the Capibaribe River in the midst of Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest).  The project, his volume of work and his reputation, all grew.  Today he is known internationally and his work has been exhibited, and won prizes, in many cities.

At 82, Brennand still works on the site and has completed many projects in the past few years.  Two of the oldest and most spectacular features of the complex are the water and sculpture garden that were landscaped by Brazil´s most famous landscaper, Brule Marx.  Between temples, ponds and fountains are many of Brennands works including murals and sculptures inspired by flora, fauna, mythological, historic and literary figures.  Many are also vey sexual and erotic, based on Brenand´s main focus of study, the female body.

Inside the large warehouse style buildings are yet more surprises.  There are over two thousand sculptures of many forms, ornate rooms and a sunken pit theatre. Close to the garden and warehouse buildings is the Accademia building which was opened in 2003. It houses houses over 200 of his paintings and drawings.

In addition to Oficina Brennand, his work can be seen in other parts of Recife, and all over Brazil. The most famous of his other work in Recife is the Parque das Esculturas (Sculpture Park) on the reef that can be seen from Marco Zero Square in Recife Antigo.  Centerpiece of the park is the 32meter column of concrete, clay, ceramic and bronze.  It was inspired by a flower discovered by Brule Marx. The 90 exhibits can be viewed up close by taking a boat crossing from the quayside in Marco Zero.

For information about visiting Oficina Brennand  see our section on Art Galleries

The Sculpture Park can be visited as part of the Walking Tour 4: Recife Antigo.

The author gratefully acknowledges the many sources that were consulted in the writing of this article.  While they provide the foundation, the interpretation and opinion are entirely those of the author.

Paul Barnett is Founder of Recife Guide.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeff permalink
    July 29, 2009 13:16

    I visited here in 2006. As an employee of a Contemporary Art Museum and a great lover of all types of art, I have to say that going to Oficina Brennand is one of the most unique and immersive experiences that you can have. It’s like some sort of slightly bizarre but wonderful art mecca nestled in the Mata Atlantica. If you are visiting Recife, you really need to go to this place and see it for yourself.

  2. November 2, 2009 13:58

    Your posts are so informative and well researched. Thanks for this the art looks and sounds incredible.

  3. Duane permalink
    November 4, 2009 15:35

    I am an American, living in Recife. Having seen much of Brennands art throughout the Recife (Shopping Recife, the reef, his gallery in Boa Viagem) I was curious to see his museum. I went with my wife and some of her family in 2004. It is an amazing assortment of works from individual pieces to entire walls, covered with original tiles and forms and done in such interesting colors containing metalics. Then, when you enter the building housing his paintings and drawings, you get a real respect of his talents and diversity.
    Another site to visit in Recife is his brother Ricardo’s museum. It houses the world’s largest collection of pocketknives. It also hosts many different exhibits throughout the year. It is called the Brennand castle as it is built in that style.

  4. Pat permalink
    August 20, 2010 00:13

    I was an AFS exchange student to Brazil in 1970 and became part of a wonderful family in Vitoria, Espirito Santo. My Brazilian mother, originally from Recife, is Francisco Brennand’s cousin. In 2008 I went back to Vitoria for a visit, and Angela, my Brazilian mom, treated me to a trip to Recife. We stayed on Boa Viagem beach and visited the Brennand studio/office/grounds, spending some short time with this fantastic artist. Seeing his work was a life-moment. It’s hard to capture with words, but I would choose: organic, sexual, mythical, earthy, ………………and shiny!

  5. paulbarnett permalink*
    August 20, 2010 03:48


    Thanks for your comment on Recife Guide. I think the studio os one of the most amazing plaes in Brazil. I am glad you got to see it, and your family connection must indeed have made it all the more interesting.

    Best Regards

  6. Angie permalink
    July 11, 2011 21:48

    I am from St. Louis, MO (USA) visiting Recife on a Fulbright-Hays award. Had the opportunity to not only visit Oficina Brennand, but met the artist himself who gave us a personal guided tour. His work is awesome – a national treasure.

  7. August 26, 2011 07:56

    Most folks will have the same opinion with your post even though its missing a few examples.

  8. July 25, 2013 18:19

    An interesting discussion is worth comment. There’s no doubt that that you ought to publish more about this issue, it might not be a taboo subject but typically people don’t discuss these issues.
    To the next! Best wishes!!


  1. A brief guide to Recife – My Travel Genie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: