Art: The Master of Batatais

It was 114 years since the Brazilian town of Batatais, 300 miles northwest of Rio, had been formally elevated to the official and honorable category of village, and Bishop Luiz Mousinho marked the anniversary last week by blessing 14 brilliant religious murals in the town's new Roman Catholic church. Surprisingly, the paintings were the work of an avowed freethinker and Communist. But the 9,850 townspeople would have no other artist than Candido Portinari, 49, who rose from a lowly birthplace near Batatais to become Brazil's best painter and the area's most admired native son.

When the townsmen first approached Portinari a year...

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