When he was 17 years old he moved to the city of São Paulo, and settled down in Imirim.
His parents were Portuguese immigrants from the Madeira Island, rural workers in the interior of the State. As a child, Agostinho cleared the farmland and took care of livestock. His first drawings were sketched on the ground and on trees. He learned to read and write in São Paulo, where he had several occupations: stonemason’s assistant, packer, and electrician. He was discovered by Pietro Maria Bardi, who saw him selling his work on Sundays in the Post Office plaza, and organized his first exhibition in the São Paulo Art Museum (MASP) in 1952. He painted São Paulo’s urban landscape: “The city is like that, with these skyscrapers, buildings, seems that we’re in the middle of a rock, looks like a mystery, a cemetery” (interview by Lélia Coelho Frota, 1976). Agostinho also painted...the countryside, but preferred the city to the countryside: “Neons here, signs there, there’s so much to study in the mind, isn’t there? But not in the countryside, where you only see woods, the only thing to think about is planting.” The city, on the other hand, is a place with gravestone architecture and movement, seems hyper-realistic. And the countryside, in his word, is “a state of imagination”, perhaps due to idealizing distance and nostalgia for the past. Between these images of town and country, adding some scenes of a Catholic mass and only a few still lifes, Agostinho gave unique form to his creator’s talent, taking part into numerous exhibitions at home and abroad, such as, for example, the Venice Biennial (1966), Brazilian Primitives, in the United States (1975), and Arte Naïf: Cinco Artistas, in São Paulo State (1998).
Little Dictionary of the Brazilian People’s Art – 20th Century, by anthropologist and poet Lélia Coelho Frota