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National Fine Arts Museum (Museu Nacional de Belas Artes)

Brazilian paintings of the 19th and 20th century, works by European masters and pieces of African art make up this museum’s extensive collection.

Discover the incredible riches of Brazilian art history with a tour through the comprehensive collection at Rio’s National Fine Arts Museum (Museu Nacional de Belas Artes). Admire the works of the giants of Brazilian art such as Pedro Américo and Di Cavalcanti, as well extensive collections of European and African art. After exploring the museum, step outside and admire the architectural treasures in the surrounding historic square.

The National Fine Arts Museum building has stood on the Rio square of Cinelândia since 1908. The museum’s collection originated in 1808, when the Portuguese royal family moved from Lisbon to Rio in order to escape the advance of Napoleon’s troops. The artwork that they brought with them from the Portuguese Royal Collection served as the first pieces of the collection now in the National Fine Arts Museum’s collection.

Start out by touring the permanent collection on the museum’s second floor. Most pieces are by Brazilian artists of the 19th and 20th century. See the museum’s many works by the 19th-century painter Pedro Américo, one of Brazil’s most famous artists. See his expertly crafted portraits and his intricate, wall-sized work The Battle of Avaí, which depicts a battle of the Paraguayan War. Also, find works by Di Cavalcanti, a Brazilian modernist painter whose main goal was to paint in a way that escaped all European influences.

The museum also features works from around the world. The sculpture gallery features copies of works by French masters. Also, see the collection of European religious art from the Middle Ages, and check out the collection of African art, which features masks, carvings and textiles.

After visiting the museum, step outside and explore the impressive architecture that surrounds Rio’s central square, Cinelândia. Latin America’s largest library, the National Library, and Rio’s main opera house, the Theatro Municipal, both face this historic square.

Arrive at the National Fine Arts Museum by bus or via the metro stop in the center of Cinelândia. Parking in the area can be hard to find, since the museum is located in the center of downtown Brazil. The museum is open from Tuesday through Sunday.


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