Brazilian artist, best known as one of the outstanding landscape architects and garden designers of the 20th century, but also active as a painter, sculptor, and designer of fabrics, jewellery, and stage sets. He was born in São Paulo to a Brazilian mother of French descent and a German-born father. In 1928–9 his family lived in Berlin, where he attended art classes at the Academy and developed an interest in Brazilian plants through visits to the city's Botanic Gardens.
Back in Brazil he enrolled at the School of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro in 1930, studying painting under *Portinari, whom he later assisted with tiled murals at the Ministry of Education in Rio (1937). In 1933 Burle Marx completed the first of the many garden projects that made him one of the most celebrated and best-loved artists in his country. He used colourful tropical plants arranged as sculptural groups within free-flowing patterns and succeeded in creating ‘a style of landscape design that is at once essentially Brazilian and wholly of the 20th century’ (Oxford Companion to Gardens, 1986). Many of his designs were skilfully harmonized with examples of Brazil's striking modern architecture, for example his garden and roof terraces (1938) for the Ministry of Education in Rio (the architect was Lucio Costa, later famous for his work at the new capital Brasilia). Burle Marx also designed gardens in other counties in Latin America and in the USA.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)