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January 2005
 
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Curiosities

The War of the Worlds, illustrated by Alvim Corrêa (1906)

TODAY considered in Brazil as a pre-Modernist painter, sometimes mistaken for a Russian or Belgian, Henrique Alvim Corrêa was the first Brazilian science fiction artist. In 1892, as a teenager of sixteen, he moved to Europe. By then he was the stepson of Baron of Oliveira e Castro, a monarchist who fled the newly Republican Brazil. Belgium was the place he chose to establish himself as a war painter (and also an erotic artist, signing "Henri LeMort").

In 1903 Alvim Corrêa went to London in search of H. G. Wells, to ask for Wells's authorization for an edition of The War of the Worlds with his own artworks. His samples strongly impressed Wells, particularly for their hallucinatory, haunting qualities. Published in Belgium in 1906, that special edition—just five hundred copies in a French translation done by Henry Davrey—turned Alvim Corrêa into one of the best and less known early illustrators of Wells. At that time he was recovering from tuberculosis.

His twenty-three pencil-and-ink artworks for The War of the Worlds are seductive and shocking, moody and comic. His shadowy Martian war machines are given cartoon-like eyes that humanize them, while the artist de-humanized the attacked human crowds, depicted as ant-like, panic-ridden masses or zombie-like figures with erased physiognomies. His feverish images are simultaneously eerie, action-packed, intense and decadent, Gothic and erotic, sketchy and exquisite, pulpy and artistic in a single continuum of style. In all that Alvim Corrêa translated the modern angst of depersonalization and fear of technology through a fragmented and disillusioned approach. He died in 1910, at thirty-four.

—Roberto de Sousa Causo

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