Born in Belém, Pará of Dutch, Native-Brazilian and African ancestry, he studied at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes (National School of Fine Arts) in Rio de Janeiro and at the Académie Julian in Paris. He created numerous paintings, wrote many poems and also helped design Brazil's National Patrimony of the Treasury department. Nery married a poet, Adalgisa Nery, in 1922. He contracted tuberculosis in 1931, and died of it in 1934. His iconic work is Autorretrato, 1927, a surrealist painting commonly compared to the Green Violinist of Marc Chagall.
Figura, 1927 (Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo).
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