The painter, draftsman, and engraver Gilvan José de Meira Lins Samico (1928–2013) began his career in the arts in the early ‘50s as a member of the Modern Art Society in Recife, Brazil. His friend and artist, Abelardo da Hora founded the association, and together with its members they supported popular art and folkloric stories from the northeastern region of Brazil. Samico studied the woodcut engraving technique with Lívio Abramo at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art’s Handcrafts School in 1957. Later he learned printmaking with Oswaldo Goeldi at the Escola de Belas Artes in Rio de Janeiro.
In the ‘60s Samico’s work moved away from Goeldi’s expressionist forms and took a new turn. By suggestion of multi-artist Ariano Suassuna, he turned to the themes ofliterature de cordel [string literature] — pamphlets sold at fairs and markets that combine narrative poetry, xylography art covers, and music through which its verses are sung. The stories inside populate the engravings with mythical figures, animals and scenes: "I knew the popular writers and did not want to imitate them. I read the brochures and saw that, in the text yes, there were inspiring in how they go beyond the real world, were the stories that interested me," he explained in a 2004 interview for the Folha de São Paulo.
In 1965 Samico moved to Olinda to begin teaching woodcut at the Federal University of Paraíba, a small historical town known for its high concentration of artists and ateliers. Shortly after he was celebrated with an award at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro (MAM), inspiring him to reside in Europe in the years to come. Samico’s decision to stay abroad was pivotal in his career, it enabled important exchanges with other artists and increased the visibility of his art internationally.