BISPO DO ROSÁRIO’S VISIONS OF PASSAGE
(Manto da representação, a ceremonial cape)
Arthur Bispo do Rosário (1909-1989) was born in Japaratuba, Sergipe, a small town in Brazilian North-East – a region known for its folk art and religious culture. He joined the navy in 1925, worked as a handyman and was also an amateur boxer. By the time he presented psychiatric symptoms (hallucinations) he was a domestic worker, living with a family in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro. According to the history, Bispo do Rosário ‘entered a Rio monastery at 29 while conducting an imaginary army of angels and announced he had come to judge the living and the dead’. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1938, and hospitalized for more than 50 years in a famous asylum in Rio, Colônia Juliano Moreira.
Completely isolated from the art establishment, Bispo do Rosário’s creations were viewed by himself as a spiritual journey to salvation: the mission of his artwork was to reach god and transcendence, a strategy he found to deal with his delirium. His ‘outsider’ art has long been celebrated for its imaginative approach to working with everyday, found materials in textiles and a variety of objects – he made use of all sort of discarded materials and hospital items in his work.
His work became well known after a documentary made by psychoanalyst Hugo Denizart in 1982 at the request of the Brazilian Ministry of Health to investigate the condition at the hospital where Bispo do Rosário lived. During this process Denizaro was so impressed with Rosário that decided to change the focus of his investigation.
The documentary ‘Prisioner of passage’ (see excerpt below) and Bispo do Rosário’s artworks were exhibited in modern art museums and at the Bienal in Brazil, and later at the Venice Bienal and more recently (2012) at the V&A Museum in London.