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Burle Marx

(1909 - 1994)

Roberto Burle Marx was born on August 4, 1909 in São Paulo. He was the fourth son of Rebecca Cecília Burle, a member of the traditional Pernambuco family of French ancestry, Burle Dubeux, and Wilhelm Marx, a German Jew born in Stuttgart and raised in Trier. The family moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1913. Burle Marx was a Brazilian landscape architect, as well as a painter, printmaker, ecologist, naturalist, artist and musician (to name his main occupations) whose designs of parks and gardens made him world-famous. He is accredited with the introduction of modernist landscape architecture to Brazil. His first landscaping inspirations came while studying painting in Germany, where he often visited the Botanical Garden in Berlin and first learned about Brazil's native flora. Upon returning to Brazil in 1930, he began collecting plants in and around his home. He went to school at the National School of Fine Arts in Rio in 1930 where he focused on visual arts under Leo Putz and Candido Portinari. While in school he associated with several of Brazil's future leaders in architecture and botanists who continued to be of significant influence in his personal and professional life. One of these was his professor, Brazilian Modernism's Lucio Costa, the architect and planner who lived down the street from Burle. In 1932, Burle Marx designed his first landscape for a private residence by the architects Lucio Costa and Gregori Warchavchik. In 1949, he acquired the 365,000 m² estate Barra de Guaratiba - just outside of Rio de Janeiro - to house his growing collection of plants. This property was later donated to the Brazilian government and is now called Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, housing over 3,500 species of plants as a national monument. He spent a lot of time in the Brazilian forests where he was able to study and explore. This enabled him to add significantly to the botanical sciences, by discovering new rocks and plants for example. He was one of the first people to call for the conservation of Brazil's rainforests. More than 50 plants bear his name. Roberto Burle Marx founded a landscape studio in 1955 shortly followed by a landscape company, called Burle Marx & Cia. Ltda. Burle Marx's artistic style was avant-garde and modern. Much of his work has a sense of timelessness and perfection. He explored an anti-mimetic and sceptical aesthetic developed from modernism with a distinctly Brazilian style, His designs were also influenced by cubism, abstractionism and Brazilian folk art. Roberto Burle Marx was more than the peerless landscape architect who revolutionized the garden aesthetic. He was also a consummate artist whose innovations drew on a wide range of cultural and natural references. The full scope of Burle Marx’s cultural contributions, from the sketches and canvases he made while painting in his 20s to the blown-glass sculptures he produced as an accomplished designer, working into his 80s. Burle Marx's 62-year career ended when he died June 4, 1994 two months before his 85th birthday.

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