Candido Portinari’s legacy

So, Remembrance Sunday service is over for another year. Like most preachers. I’m sure, I struggle to balance the competing needs on the day:

  • Genuine honour and respect for those who serve in uniform without glorifying war
  • Solemn gratitude for those who died in two world wars without forgetting those who have died since
  • Serious respect for those who die in uniform, whilst acknowledging the cost to non-combatants
This year Brazilian artist Candid Portinari came to my help. Last year I spotted the story of his murals moving from the United Nations Headquarters in New York back to his native Brazil, and made a note to use the story. These huge murals, named war and peace, depict the human cost of war without a gun, uniform or weapon in sight. Placed as they were on the main stairwell of the UN building, they served as a reminder to all who came and went not to take their decisions lightly, since their would be a civilian as well as a military cost to them.
Today we looked at them in church, and remembered the cost to those both in and out of uniform of war. There was a great cost to Portinari too. In 1956, when these 14-metre high murals were painted, he had been warned by doctors not to use lead based paints any more as they were damaging his health. He went ahead anyway, and in so doing left a remarkable legacy.