Mário de Andrade Biography

Mario de Andrade, a renowned Brazilian poet, novelist, critic, and photographer, left an indelible mark on Brazil’s literary landscape in the twentieth century. With a deep love for his country and exceptional scholarly talents, Andrade revolutionized poetry in Brazil by introducing modernism. His wide-ranging essays covered literature, music, and art history, showcasing his diverse interests and expertise. Not only a writer, Andrade was also an exceptional photographer. Through his novels, he explored the rich themes of Brazilian folk culture, always fascinated by the influence of folklore and music. His essays emphasized the vital role of these elements within the broader context of modernist nationalism. As a music scholar, Andrade’s profound knowledge and understanding of musicology made him a reference for composers and music students of his time. He was the first to introduce the perspectives of ethnomusicology to Brazil, studying music in its entirety and within its social, cultural, and cognitive contexts. Andrade’s literary works broke away from the formal Portuguese writing, incorporating colloquialism and establishing him as a Renaissance man, or Polymath, in Brazil. His dedication to thorough research in various fields of art and music resulted in numerous influential essays that continue to inspire intellectuals, scholars, artists, and writers today.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Mario de Andrade, Mário Raul de Morais Andrade
  • Died At Age: 51
  • Family:
    • Father: Carlos Augusto de Andrade
    • Mother: Maria Luísa de Almeida Leite Moraes de Andrade
    • Siblings: Renato de Andrade
  • Occupation: Poet, Novelist
  • Died on: February 25, 1945
  • Place of Death: São Paulo, Brazil

Childhood & Early Life

Mário Raul de Morais Andrade was born on October 9, 1893 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to Carlos Augusto de Moraes Andrade and his wife, Maria Luisa Leite Moraes Andrade. He had a younger brother, Renato, who died in a tragic accident at the young age of 14. Possessing prodigal talents in piano, he studied at the Music and Drama Conservatory in Sao Paulo, spoke fluent French and was passionate in the study of art, history and poetry. His brother’s sudden and accidental death in 1913 on a football field compelled him to return to his family’s home in Araraquara. He became an accomplished pianist with a degree, graduating in 1917, yet chose to study music theory and singing, hoping to pursue a career as a professor of music. He had developed a tremor of the hand, which interfered somewhat with playing the piano. He began to immerse himself in writing and was on the path to publishing his first set of verses.


He began his literary journey with his first publication in 1917 under the pseudonym, ‘Mario Sobral’. Conforming to the conventional poetic scheme and symbolism, this early work was to be followed by increasing originality of his poetic spirit. Greatly influenced by the French and the Symbolist movement, he began to experiment with themes of modernism. Liturgical invocation ran through his poetry, earning him the name “Pope of Brazilian Modernism”, particularly in the early phases. He was part of a ‘Group of Five’ artists and writers during the 1920s. Imbued with a sense of Brazilian spirit and heritage, he traveled extensively through the land. In 1927, he began to write a regular travelogue called “The Apprentice Tourist”, which took the reader into the heartland of the nation – its folklore, culture and inhabitants, along with stunning photographic images. Following the Revolution of 1930, the political scenario was changing in Brazil and Andrade had to alter his career course. He was Chair of Music and Aesthetics at the Conservatory in Sao Paulo and began to devote himself to research to write his textbooks. With his remarkable understanding of musical elements and of the country, he became an ethnomusicologist and worked intensively on the theory of music. Political disturbances in the ensuing years led him to Rio de Janeiro from 1938-1941, where he took up a position at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, returning to Sao Paulo to resume work on his collection of poems.

Major Works

His first modernist book of poems was entitled ‘Pauliceia Desvairada’ and published in 1922. He is said to have been inspired to write this after he saw a sculpture of Christ as a Brazilian with braids and found himself in a state of delirium. Using free verse and colloquial expressions, he introduced the Avante-Garde movement of poetry in Brazil which spread to other parts of Latin America. In 1928, his novel about a hero without a character – Macunaima – was published, which highlights two languages – Brazilian and Portuguese, mixing the different dialects within the magical realism he created in this story. Containing textures of urban and rural, it combines prose with poetic rhythms – fantasy and mythical elements pervade the book, yet it is grounded in realism. It is a novel of conflict and complexity, of a clash of cultures, depicted explosively and ending in destruction.

Personal Life & Legacy

While there is no evidence to suggest Andrade was openly homosexual, there have been references to it by colleagues and friends. He had a troubled relationship with the Vargas regime of Brazil at the time of his death in Sao Paulo, which occurred unexpectedly due to a heart attack at the age of 52. He died at his home in São Paulo following a heart attack on February 25, 1945. His enormous contribution to the world of literature and the poetic movement was honored by the municipal library of Sao Paulo which was renamed as ‘Biblioteca Mario de Andrade’ in 1960. Trivia: Andrade’s main character in Macunaima, his bold and outrageous book, is believed to have possessed some of his own characteristics. He was fiercely protective of his private life.

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