José Borges

b. 1935

Born in Bezerros, Pernambuco, Brazil; lives in Bezerros.

José Borges is a self-taught woodcarver, woodblock printer, and poet who began his artistic career as an itinerant peddler of home-made illustrated chapbooks addressing popular themes, folktales, and legends native to the impoverished Northeast of Brazil. His Tamarind images are typical of the unique art form for which he is known, literatura de Cordel, which consists of written verses and woodblock prints. Traditionally these chapbooks were sold at county fairs or popular rural markets where they hung from a piece of string or cordel. Often these chapbooks were sung out loud by the poet to a mostly illiterate rural population; they depicted lively scenes of religious processions, village life, lovers’ quarrels, and frolicsome barnyard animals. These are the Borges's first lithographs. 

Borges has become the most famous of Brazil’s folk artist or cordel artists. His works were featured in a 1992 exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City and in an exhibition at the San Antonio Museum of Art. In addition, his pieces have been published and collected widely.