Little information has survived about Brazil’s Para Todos magazine. I couldn’t actually find what date or why it ever went out of print. I do know that it was created in 1918 with a focus on movie stars, and in 1922 until 1930, it came under the direction of José Carlos, a cartoonist, illustrator and major talent in Brazilian Art Deco graphic design. Some dedicated people behind a project to archive his surviving work have digitized nine years of his work, including the spectacular covers he created for Para Todos.
Historical magazines are precious tools for getting to know the past. Perhaps for the very reason they were not designed to last as long as books, Para Todos bring us a fresh and true picture of the “Copacabana” way of life in the 1920s and 30s.
Through its pages, we can get a glimpse into how people aspired to dress, where they went, what they ate, saw at the cinema, theatre and even what music they listened to– all wrapped in delicious drawings and letters.
J. Carlos collaborated in design and illustration in all the major publications of Brazil from the 1920s until the 1950s. He was the first Brazilian to draw Mickey Mouse. When Walt Disney visited Brazil on a research trip with his core team of illustrators in 1941, he met Carlos and asked him to come work with him in Hollywood. Too attached to his hometown of Rio, José declined the opportunity, although it’s believed that Disney’s famous parrot, Zé Carioca (Zé is short for José) is modelled after José’s own parrot drawings which the Disney team took photos of during their visit to Rio.
Carlos’ art direction of the Para Todos embodied Brazilian film production in the twenties and thirties, which was largely based on the veneration of Hollywood and reproducing the American model (including the racially insensitive blackface stereotype).
The transformation of the female silhouette during the Jazz Age saw the emergence of a modern girl, attuned to fashion and consumption. Carlos adopted this silhouette and reinvented her as the Carioca flapper called the melindrosa. She was flirtatious, doll-like and provocatively dressed. Unlike the traditional and previously idealized female silhouette of the Rio carnivals, melindrosa was pale and dainty with bobbed hair. One historian Isabel Lustosa describe Carlos’ melindrosa as a “dragonfly-like Tinkerbell of Walt Disney’s cartoon that people the imagination of the men of the time… the small details of the toilette, the scarf, the hat, the gloves, the tiny waist, the Chanel model…”.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen any Parisian fashion sketches of the twenties quite as beautiful as these…
Carlos’ designs are arguably some of the most beautiful magazine covers in the history of design. Now that you can recognise them, if you ever see one at a flea market, don’t let the opportunity pass you by. (Same thing goes if you ever spot one of the jazz age issues of The Chicagoan).
You can see some of the surviving covers here, digitized thanks to the J Carlos Project.