Live parrots, rainbow hammocks, exploding bricks … Britain is on the verge of a Brazilian art invasion – and it all started with a wartime gift for embattled airmen

In the autumn of 1943, the Brazilian art world decided it wanted to do something to cheer up wartime Britain and raise money for its embattled airmen. Seventy artists – including several stars of the country’s emerging art scene – clubbed together and 168 pictures were sent to the UK for exhibition and sale.

“As artists,” they wrote, “this was the best way we could find to express to the English our admiration and solidarity.” Britain’s ambassador in Rio de Janeiro wrote to foreign secretary Anthony Eden, asking for £25 to cover transport costs, pointing out that the Brazilians had framed the paintings themselves so “that we should be spared the difficulties [of doing so] in wartime”.

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