About The Artist
Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991), a painter and prolific printmaker, is one of Mexico’s most celebrated artists. Along with his artistic peers, such as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, Tamayo’s work defined 20th century Mexican art and brought it to the attention of an international audience. Despite his association with the Mexican muralists, who believed that art should embody revolutionary ideals, Tamayo did not share their political convictions, opting instead for more oblique symbolism. This led to some controversy and Tamayo emigrated to New York in 1926, later moving to Paris in 1949, though he eventually returned to Mexico permanently in 1959.
Tamayo studied art at Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at San Carlos in 1917, where he encountered the work of the Impressionists, the Fauves and the Cubists. Inspired by such progressive approaches to painting, he began experimenting with abstract forms and the flatness of his work, along with his gestural brushstrokes, testifies to this international influence. Tamayo’s use of simplified, flat, figurative forms, sometimes floating in space, other times depicting nightmarish animals, also suggests the importance of Surrealism to his work, which he encountered during his time in New York.
At the same time, Tamayo’s paintings acknowledged the vitality of Mexican traditions. He became familiar with the art of pre-Columbian civilizations during his tenure at the National Museum of Archaeology in Mexico City and was himself of Zapotecan Indian descent. His affinity with indigenous cultures is expressed in his forms and sensuous, dusty colors and this earthy, limited palette was a deliberate strategy on the part of the artist, intended to emphasize the force of his compositions. Though Tamayo created murals, he was a painter at heart and rhapsodized about the possibilities available within the form, “The easel is a laboratory, a field of experimentation without limitations," he argued, "and its limited surface covers all the potentialities for an artist.”
Tamayo’s output was diverse and also included woodcuts, lithographs, etchings and Mixografia ® prints, made between 1925 and 1991. This latter method was pioneered by the artist and is a print-making process that results in a three-dimensional textured effect.
Tamayo’s work is featured in prominent public collections around the world including Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, São Paulo; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), San Francisco; San Diego