In 1933, Tarsila do Amaral presented one of her best-known paintings: Workers. In it, workers are arranged in the foreground, with emphasis on the contiguous faces of men and women of different ethnicities, which line up in an ascending format and composes, as a block, a kind of pyramid. The scenery has industrial buildings in the background, with chimneys that pour smoke into the horizon and gray the blue sky.
That same year of 1933 marks, in football in Rio de Janeiro, an unprecedented feat: the working-class team of Bangu A. C., from the city's suburbs, won the Rio de Janeiro football championship and surpassed the big clubs in the South Zone, beating the traditional Fluminense in the finals. Founded by English engineers from Fábrica Bangu, the suburban club allowed workers from that factory to use the playing field for recreation and, from 1904 onwards, also for competition.
The victory from Bangu – a manufacturing team like C. A. Juventus in São Paulo, G. E. Renner in Rio Grande do Sul and Operário F. C. in Mato Grosso do Sul, among so many associations that carry this identity mark – coincided in 1933 with the official adoption of the professionalism in football . It is a process of incorporation of football players and teams that would not happen without conflicts and that would start to allow black and illiterate workers, which until then, in a veiled or explicit way, prevented participation in official leagues.
Tarsila's painting, a pictorial expression of São Paulo marked by massive workers contingents since the 1910s, makes no obvious allusion to football. However, the screen allows projecting and imagining these same segments of workers who flocked to the stadiums and who also built their collective identities around professional clubs.
Aspect of work at Companhia Vidraria Santa Marina. In the background, thousands of bottles are stacked, one of the items produced. Photograph: Football Museum Collection I Santa Marina Collection | Reserved Rights.,
Starting players of the Santa Marina Futebol Clube youth team, in 1938. Photograph: Football Museum Collection I Santa Marina Collection | Reserved Rights.
Santa Marina Futebol Clube players insert for the 1938 Placard Championship. Photograph: Football Museum Collection I Santa Marina Collection | Reserved Rights.
Santa Marina Futebol Clube team, in 1920. Photograph: Football Museum Collection I Santa Marina Collection | Reserved Rights.
Workers at Companhia Vidraria Santa Marina, in the Água Branca neighborhood, in São Paulo. Photograph: Football Museum Collection I Santa Marina Collection | Reserved Rights.
The iconic painting Operários (1933), by Tarsila do Amaral, participates in the history of modernism not only through its compositional technique but also through the “portrait” offered of the ethnic multiplicity of the Brazilian population, composed of the migratory influx that intensified at the end of the 19th century and extended through the first decades of the 20th century, contributing to the density of large industrial cities, especially São Paulo. Photograph: Romulo Fialdini. Artwork: Operários | Tarsila do Amaral.
Santa Marina Futebol Clube 34th Anniversary Parade. Photograph: Football Museum