Rafael Tufiño Figueroa (October 30, 1922 – March 13, 2008) was a Puerto Rican painter, printmaker and cultural figure in Puerto Rico, known locally as the "Painter of the People". His work is among the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the U.S. Library of Congress, the Galería Nacional in Puerto Rico, and the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico.
Rafael Tufiño Figueroa was born on October 30, 1922, in Brooklyn, New York where he lived with his parents, Gregoria Figueroa and Agustín Tufiño, until he was ten years old. In 1932, he moved to Puerta de Tierra, the neighborhood located just outside Old San Juan, to live with his grandmother. At the age of 12, he began to work in the workshop of Antonio "Tony" Maldonado, where he painted signs and letters.
Tufiño was in the United States Army from 1943 to 1946. Later, he moved to Mexico to study painting and engraving at the San Carlos Academy, where he was exposed to the populist ideas of the Popular Graphics Workshop and the Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. Upon returning to Puerto Rico in 1949, he joined the Graphic Arts Workshop of the Community Education Division (DIVEDCO, for its Spanish acronym), which had been created as part of a government campaign to teach the public about health.
Artist work and legacy
Rafael Tufiño's painting included portraits, landscapes and images of Puerto Rico daily life. His work is among the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the U.S. Library of Congress, the Galería Nacional in Puerto Rico, and the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico. During the 1950s, he was part of the "Generación de los Cincuentas" (the Generation of the Fifties), a group of artists who worked to create a new artistic style and aesthetic identity for Puerto Rico.
He also spent time in New York on a Guggenheim fellowship, and returned to the city in the 1960s, when he encountered a generation of Puerto Rican artists particularly intent on exploring and celebrating their cultural heritage.
Until 1963, he contributed to the Puerto Rico Department of Public Instruction (now the Department of Education) various paintings, posters, and advertisements to help bring government-sponsored literacy and hygiene programs to poor and illiterate communities in Puerto Rico.
Tufiño dedicated his later life to foster art and related studies in Puerto Rican communities, such as taking part in founding an artist workshop / cooperative named Taller Boricua in 1970, located in Spanish Harlem, and advocating for the creation of El Museo del Barrio, located on New York's Fifth Avenue at the top of "Museum Mile".
Rafael Tufiño had two daughters, Nitza Tufiño and Rima Tufiño, and three sons, Rafael Tufiño Jr., Salvatore Tufiño, and Pablo Tufiño.
Tufiño died on March 13, 2008 in Condado, Puerto Rico at the age of 85. Upon hearing his death, the Governor of Puerto Rico ordered all state flags to fly at half staff and proclaimed 2 days of national mourning.
- Stuart Lavietes (2008-03-17). "Rafael Tufiño, Artist, Is Dead at 85". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-18.
- "Puerto Rico Painter Tufino Dies at 85". Associated Press. 2008-03-17. Retrieved 2008-03-18.[dead link]
- Jorge Rodriguez. "Última pincelada: fallece maestro Rafael Tufiño". El Vocero de Puerto Rico (Spanish). Archived from the original on 2008-05-03. Retrieved 2008-03-18.