ArtSmart Roundtable: Museum of Art in São Paulo, Brazil

The theme for this month’s ArtSmart Roundtable is paintings. In July I will be in São Paulo, Brazil, visiting family for a few weeks. Every time we go there, I make a list of things I want to do in São Paulo because it is an enormous city with lots of cultural attractions and  world-class museums. The city’s nicest collection is at the Museum of Art in São Paulo (or Museu de Arte de São Paulo–MASP). In fact, it’s known as the best collection of  Western art in Latin America.


The architecture of MASP is unique, and I love it!

The museum’s permanent collection is arranged in rooms by theme. For example, when I was there last, there were rooms devoted to portraits, myths, and realism. This kind of arrangement, instead of the usual chronological order, added an interesting twist to the display.


Though MASP doesn’t have the best pieces by great artists, it does include enough works by important artists, in addition to hosting excellent temporary exhibits, that anyone in São Paulo should make time to visit. The following are some, but definitely not all, of the highlights.

The collection includes paintings by Italian masters like Botticelli, Titan, Tintoretto, and Giovanni Bellini.


Botticelli’s Virgin and Child with St. John the Baptist, 1495-1500

Giovanni Bellini

Giovanni Bellini’s Virgin with the Standing Child, Who Embraces His Mother, 1480-1490

There are also impressive paintings by El Greco and Diego Velasquez. The Velasquez work is one of a few large portraits, also seen above in the second photo.

Diego Velasquez

Portrait of the Count-Duke of Olivares, by Velasquez, 1624

El Greco painting

The Annunciation, by El Greco, c. 1600

Like other works by Rembrandt, the brushstrokes and human emotion of this self-portrait pulled me in.


Self-Portrait by Rembrandt, c. 1635

MASP has many works by great 19th and 20th century artists.

monet painting

Monet’s Canoe on the Epte, c. 1890


Paul Gauguin’s Poor Fisherman, 1896


Toulouse-Lautrec’s Monsieur Fourcade, 1889

Turner painting

Turner’s The Castle of Carnaevon, 1830-35

For more information about MASP, click here. (All photos are from Wikipedia Commons except the first, which is mine.)

For more about paintings, check out the other ArtSmart posts:

Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’  at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence from Eurotravelogue

Klimt Spotting in 2012 from Travellious

The Garden of Earthly Delights from A Sense of Place

Midnight in Paris in La Belle Époque from CG Travels

What Happens When You Piss Off Whistler from No Onions Extra Pickles

Have you been to MASP? Are there any art museums that you were pleasantly surprised by?

Join the other ArtSmart bloggers for more on paintings:

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  • Jeff Titelius says:

    What a stunning collection of paintings my friend with so many masters featured. And the pics are amazing too!!!
    Jeff Titelius recently posted..ArtSmart Roundtable—Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ at the Uffizi Gallery in FlorenceMy Profile

  • ehalvey says:

    That architecture!! I’m dying!

    Also love that they divide it up by theme, such a nice change from the usual. I’m stuck on that Velasquez though. His head is tiny! What’s up with that? It’s kind of creepy…

    The Rembrandt looks like one from my class. I always love how he painted eyes.
    ehalvey recently posted..ArtSmart Roundtable: The Garden of Earthly DelightsMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I agree about the architecture although I never could have put it the same way you did 🙂 And I have noticed the small head problem, too. Wonder if it was intentional on Velasquez’s part…

  • Ayngelina says:

    I grew tired of religious art in Latin America but I really like modern art galleries there – some really interesting things around revolutions.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Have you met Bruce?My Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I have many more art museums and galleries to visit in Brazil (and the rest of Latin America, of course), and I agree that the religious art can get tiresome.

  • Ashley says:

    Based on the architecture, I would of expected a more contemporary collection! Do love that piece by Toulouse-Lautrec.
    Ashley recently posted..ArtSmart Roundtable: Rodin in San FranciscoMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      The architecture is pretty cool but can throw you off. Some of the temporary exhibits focus on modern and contemporary but definitely not all.

  • Leslie says:

    Oh my gosh! I had no idea half of these works were in Brazil of all places! Just goes to show you that famous art really is sprinkled all over the world. Your trip sounds fabulous; I’ll have to mentally bookmark this museum for whenever I finally get to Sao Paulo myself!
    Leslie recently posted..ArtSmart Roundtable: Midnight in Paris in La Belle ÉpoqueMy Profile

  • Sounds like it could be worth a visit – I’m planning a trip to Brazil early next year and I’m just starting to get excited about some of the things I’m going to see and do

    • Jenna says:

      There are so many things to see and do in Brazil–I’m sure it can be hard to narrow it down for a first trip. Let me know if you need any suggestions!

  • Ronan Fred says:

    The excellent collections are eye catching. I want to take a visit at Museum of Art in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Thanks for this nice post.
    Ronan Fred recently posted..El InformeMy Profile

  • I remember visiting this museum several years ago, when I was living in São Paulo. I remember being pleasantly surprised to see how many well-known European artists were featured in their permanent collection. Like you said, these paintings are not the best pieces by well-known artists, but it is still a very solid and interesting collection. It’s also just fun to go and see works by famous artists that rarely (or never!) appear in mainstream art history textbooks and publications. In a way, a trip to this museum is like experiencing art history in a new and fresh way.

    I also like the Museu da Arte Sacra in São Paulo. I felt like I got a better sense of colonial art and Brazilian heritage in that museum, and it actually sparked my initial interest in the sculptor Aleijadinho.
    Alberti’s Window recently posted..The Farnese Bull and Messy Art HistoryMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Good point about experiencing something unexpected and different at a museum like this that has less known works by great artists. I’ve been missing going to exhibits since my kids were born, so going to MASP was very exciting for me. It is a great museum. I haven’t been to the Museu da Arte Sacra but am interested, especially after your comment.
      How interesting that you lived in Sao Paulo. I’m curious why.

  • Nasim says:

    I just visited the Museum and it was a good experience and how the curators planned the museum by theme.
    Good collection indeed.
    I am trying to find the name of a painter and the painting that is the last painting on the top floor.

    an indian woman washed to the shore (appears to be sleeping ) but its from a ship wreck.
    Please let me know if anyone can remember.

    • Jenna says:

      Glad you enjoyed the museum! Unfortunately, I have no idea about that painting. You might try contacting the museum itself.

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