Rufino Tamayo holding a guitar 1945, Photo by: Carl Van Vechten
|Birth name||Rufino Tamayo|
August 26, 1899|
Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico
|Died||June 24, 1991
Mexico City, Mexico
|Field||Painting and Drawing|
|Training||María Izquierdo, José Vasconcelos (National Archaeological Museum)|
|Works||Children Playing with Fire, Lion and Horse, Animals|
|Elected||Head of the Department of Ethnographic Drawings.|
Rufino Tamayo (August 26, 1899 – June 24, 1991) was a Mexican painter of Zapotec heritage, born in Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico. Tamayo was active in the mid-20th century in Mexico and New York, painting figurative abstraction with surrealist influences.
Tamayo's Zapotec heritage is often cited as an early influence.
After the death of his parents, he moved to Mexico City to live with his aunt. Tamayo had no choice but to move and live with relatives in México City, México. While living with them, Tamayo was very devoted to helping his family out with a small business they owned. However, after a while Tamayo’s aunt enrolled him into an art school which was when his career as an artist began. He enrolled at Escuela Nacional de Artes Plasticas at San Carlos in 1917 to study art. While studying, Tamayo experimented with and was influenced by Cubism, Impressionism, and Fauvism, among other popular art movements of the time, but with a distinctly Mexican feel. Although he studied drawing at Academy of Art at San Carlos as a young adult, Tamayo was very dissatisfied and eventually went to study art on his own. That was when he began working for José Vasconcelos at the Department of Ethnographic Drawings (1921), and was later appointed head of the department by Vasconcelos.
Rufino Tamayo, along with other muralists such as Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros represented the twentieth century, in their native country of Mexico. After the Mexican Revolution, Tamayo devoted himself to creating an identity in his work. Tamayo expressed what he believed was the traditional Mexico and did not create more overt political art like his contemporaries, such as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, Oswaldo Guayasamin, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. He disagreed with these muralists in their belief that the revolution was necessary for the future of Mexico; Tamayo believed that since Mexicans began the revolution they were only going to get hurt by it. He expressed this belief in his painting, Children Playing with Fire (1947). In this image, Tamayo shows two individuals being burnt by a fire they have created, symbolizing the people in Mexico being hurt by its own choice. Tamayo claimed that Mexico is becoming and will continue to be hurt from a war it created. Tamayo claimed, “We are in a dangerous situation, and the danger is that man may be absorbed and destroyed by what he has created”. Due to his opinion, he was seen by some as a "traitor" to the political cause, and he felt he could not freely express his art, so in 1926, he decided to leave Mexico and move to New York. Prior to leaving, he organized a one-man show of his work in Mexico City, where he was noticed for his individuality. Tamayo returned to Mexico in 1929 to have another solo show, this time being met with high praise and media coverage.
Rufino Tamayo’s legacy in the history of art is truly found in Tamayo’s oeuvre of original graphic prints, in which Tamayo cultivated every technique. Rufino Tamayo’s graphic work was produced between 1925 and 1991 and includes the mediums of woodcuts, lithographs, etchings and Mixografia prints. With the help of Mexican painter and engineer Luis Remba, Tamayo expanded the technical and aesthetic possibilities of the graphic arts by developing a new medium, which they named "Mixografia". The Mixografia technique is a unique fine art printing process that allows for the production of prints with three-dimensional texture. The technique not only registered the texture and volume of Rufino Tamayo's design, but it also granted Tamayo the freedom to use any combination of solid materials in its creation. Rufino Tamayo was delighted with the Mixografia process, and Tamayo created some 80 original Mixographs. One of their most famous Mixografia was titled Dos Personajes Atacados por Perros (Two Characters Attacked by Dogs).
In 1935, Tamayo joined the Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios (LEAR). The LEAR was a place in which Mexican artists could express their beliefs through painting and writing towards the revolutionary war and governmental issues that were happening in México at the time. Although Tamayo did not agree with Siqueiros and Orozco, they were chosen along with four others to represent their art in the first American Artists’ Congress in New York. Now married, Rufino and Olga had planned on staying in New York for just a couple weeks while the event passed, however, they made New York their permanent home for the next decade and a half.
In 1948, his first major retrospective was done at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and while he was still controversial, his popularity was high. Still uncomfortable with the political differences and controversy, Tamayo and Olga moved to Paris in 1949, where he was welcomed by the artists of Europe. He remained in Paris for 10 years.
Tamayo is also known as someone who enjoyed portraying women in his paintings. In his early works, he portrayed many naked women, a subject which eventually disappeared in his later work. However, he also has many paintings of his wife Olga, in which he shows her struggles through color choices and facial expressions. A portrait which can help one see the struggles the two went through is seen in the painting Rufino and Olga, 1934. In this painting, both Olga and Rufino seem broken from past struggles.
There are many artists whom Tamayo was influenced by; but he was probably most influenced by his relationship with María Izquierdo, a Mexican artist herself, with whom he lived for a time. Her influence helped guide Tamayo to be very precise with his color choices. He made sure to use colors which show Mexico as it really is. He argued that, "Mexicans are not a gay race but a tragic one..." He was not willing to show a side of Mexico that is not real. By using colors that show how broken people in Mexico really are, he suggests that Mexicans do need help to move on from their tragic history. Even if people who are full of pride, such as other muralists, believe that Mexicans will gain something out of this war.
Other influences came from Tamayo's cultural heritage. One can say that Tamayo was one of the few artists of his era who enjoyed Mexico’s ethnic differences. He enjoyed the fusion of Spanish-Mexican-Indian blood and that is shown in some of his art pieces. In his art piece, Lion and Horse (1942), Tamayo used pre-Columbian ceramics, showing his gratitude towards all of the ethnic groups in Mexico. It is clear, however, that Tamayo was one of the few who enjoyed all of the different ethnic groups in México. Tamayo had a lot of pride towards his Mexican culture because his culture is what had created him, and by traveling to other countries, his love for Mexico became greater.
Another influence came from the disregard that people had towards Mexican artists. For example, according to Jose Carlos Ramirez,"Tamayo's work did not have much value". Mostly because people did not think Mexican artists could actually create art. Under the Díaz regime, artists who were of Mexican origin were ignored by society. This had a big impact on Tamayo because Mexican artists were not being recognized and no one believed that they actually had the skills to surpass those artists who were of European descent.
From 1937 to 1949, Tamayo and his wife Olga lived in New York, where he painted some of his most valuable works during that time, becoming quickly recognized in the United States. He had his first show in New York City at Valentine Gallery. He gained credibility and went on to show at Knoedler Gallery and Marlborough Gallery. While in New York, he helped train Helen Frankenthaler at the Dalton School in New York. While in the United States, Tamayo had very important exhibitions which influenced his art mechanics. From his attendance to Ingres to Picasso and French art exhibitions, Tamayo was introduced to Impressionism, Fauvism, and cubism. Also, in a much larger exhibition while in Brooklyn (1928) Tamayo came into contact with Matisse, a French artist.
To show how much Tamayo was appreciated in the United States. In a 1926 exhibition, 39 of his works were held at the Weyhe Gallery in New York just a month after his arrival into the United States. Compared to the very few which were held during his early life in México. Going to the United States really helped Tamayo become recognized in the United States, Mexico, and other countries.
Tamayo developed a method which criticizes more the painting rather than just the subject itself. By doing so, he is looking at the painting as a whole and not just the subject. As Tamayo explained this method to Paul Westheim, “As the number of colors we use decreases, the wealth of possibilities increases”. Tamayo was more focused on using single colors rather than using many colors because he believed using fewer colors in a painting gave the art piece a lot more meaning. An example painting that shows Tamayo’s unique color choices is seen in the painting Tres personajes cantando (Three singers), 1981. In this painting, Tamayo uses a lot of pure colors such as, red, purple, etc. The usages of these colors are very strong which defended his belief that the less colors one uses in a painting the more meaning that that painting can have. With that being said, Octavio Paz, author of the book Rufino Tamayo, argues that, “Time and again we have been told that Tamayo is a great colourist; but it should be added that this richness of colour is the result of sobriety”. By being pure, or as Paz explained, sober with his color choice, it gave Tamayo the richness in his paintings.
|“||"If I could express with a single word what it is that distinguishes Tamayo from other painters, I would say without a moment's hesitation: Sun. For the sun is in all his pictures, whether we see it or not." - Nobel Prize-winning poet Octavio Paz||”|
List of artworks
Children playing with fire (1947) Rufino and Olga (1934) Lion and horse (1942) Tres personajes cantando (Three singers) (1981) Hombre con flor (Man with flower) (1989)
Return home and later years
In 1959, Tamayo and his wife returned to Mexico permanently, where Tamayo built an art museum in his home town of Oaxaca, the Museo Rufino Tamayo. In 1972, Tamayo was the subject of the documentary film, Rufino Tamayo: The Sources of his Art by Gary Conklin.
The Tamayo Contemporary Art Museum (Museo Tamayo de Arte Contemporáneo), located on Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma boulevard, where it crosses Chapultepec Park, was opened in 1981 as a repository for the collections that Rufino Tamayo and his wife acquired during their lifetimes, and ultimately donated to the nation.
Tamayo painted his last painting in 1989, at the age of 90, Hombre con flor (Man with flower), a self-portrait.
Tamayo's work has been displayed in museums throughout the world, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, The Phillips Collection in Washington, the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, the Naples Museum of Art in Naples, Florida, and The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain.
On June 12, 1991, Tamayo was admitted to Mexico City's National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition for respiratory and heart failure. He suffered a heart attack and died on June 24, 1991. Before Tamayo died, he continued creating art pieces in his late years. He was very productive at that stage in life. To show how grateful people were towards his art, there were several important exhibitions and publications that were organized after his death.
Theft and recovery
Tamayo's 1970 painting Tres Personajes was bought by a Houston man as a gift for his wife in 1977, then stolen from their storage locker in 1987 during a move. In 2003, Elizabeth Gibson found the painting in the trash on a New York City curb. Although she knew little about modern art, Gibson felt the painting "had power" and took it without knowing its origin or market value. She spent four years trying to learn about the work, eventually learning from the PBS website that it had been featured on an episode of Antiques Roadshow. After seeing the Missing Masterpieces segment about Tres Personajes, Gibson and the former owner arranged to sell the painting at a Sotheby's auction. In November, 2007 Gibson received a $15,000 reward plus a portion of the $1,049,000 auction sale price.
- National Prize for Arts and Sciences in Fine Arts of Mexico, 1964
- Honorary Doctor by the National University of Mexico, 1978
- Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts by the University of Southern California, 1985
- Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts of Spain, 1985
- Belisario Domínguez Medal of Honor by the Mexican Senate, 1988
- Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, 1989
- Honorary member of the National College of Mexico, 1991
- Sullivan, 170-171
- Ades, 357
- Carlos Suarez De Jesus (2007). "Mexican Master". The Miami New Times. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
- The Adani Gallery (2007). "Rufino Tamayo". The Adani Gallery. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
- Nicoletta, Julie. "ART OUT OF PLACE: INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITS AT THE NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR OF 1964-1965". Peter N. Stearns. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
- Day], Holliday T. Day and Hollister Sturges ; with contributions by Edward Lucie-Smith, Damián Bayón, and others ; [edited by Sue Taylor ; additional editing by Anna Baker ... et al. ; translations by Michele Davis, Linda Huddleston, Susan (1987). Art of the fantastic : Latin America, 1920-1987 (1st ed. ed.). Indianapolis, Ind.: Indianapolis Museum of Art. ISBN 0-936260-19-X.
- Frank Houston (2007). "Gone Tamayo". The Miami New Times. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
- Artscene (2007). "Rufino Tamayo". Artscene. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
- Shoemaker, ed. by John Ittmann. With contrib. by Innis Howe; Wechsler,, James M., Williams, Lyle W. (2006). Mexico and modern printmaking : a revolution in the graphic arts, 1920 to 1950; [on the occasion of the Exhibition Mexico and Modern Printmaking: a Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920 to 1950; Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 21, 2006 to January 14, 2007 ... McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, October 3, 2007, to January 6, 2008]. Philadelphia, Pa.: Philadelphia Museum of Art [u.a.] ISBN 0-87633-195-9.
- Lucie-Smith, Edward (2005). Latin American art of the 20th century (Rev. and expanded ed. ed.). London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-20356-3.
- Ramirez, Jose Carlos (2008). Competencia por cantidad en los mercados de arte de Mexico. Mexico: Fondo de cultura economica.
- Katherine Jentleson (November 21, 2007). Artist Dossier: Rufino Tamayo. ARTINFO. Retrieved 2008-04-28
- Long, edited by Teresa del Conde ; [translated from the Spanish by Andrew; Panichi], Luisa (2000). Tamayo (1st U.S. ed. ed.). Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-8212-2651-7.
- Lyons], texts by Octavio Paz, Jacques Lassaigne ; [translated by Kenneth (1995). Rufino Tamayo ([2nd updated ed.]. ed.). Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa. ISBN 84-343-0795-2.
- ULA ILNYTZKY (23 October 2007). "Painting found in trash could fetch $1M". USA Today. Associated Press.
- Charlotte Higgins (24 October 2007). "Stolen masterpiece found on New York street". London: The Guardian.
- Lisa Gray (November 6, 2007). "Finding Tamayo painting was result of fate". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-11-21.
- "Honorary doctorates by the National University of Mexico (spanish)".
- "University of Southern California Commencement 1985". Los Angeles Times. 1985. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
- Ades, Dawn. Art in Latin America: The Modern Era 1820-1980. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-300-04561-1.
- Matheos, José Corredor. Tamayo. New York: Rizzoli, 1987. ISBN 978-0-8478-0855-7.
- Sullivan, Edward J. The Language of Objects in the Art of the Americas. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-300-11106-4.
- NY Times obituary
- Sotheby's: From The Trash Bin To The Auction Block
- Museo Tamayo (Spanish)
- Rufino Tamayo: Life, biography and paintings (French)
- Rufino Tamayo: The Sources of his Art (documentary)
- "Miami Museum of Art (MAM) Tamayo Exhibition (June 24th- Sept 23rd, 2007)"
- One Person’s Trash Is Another Person’s Lost Masterpiece
Eduardo García Maynez
|Belisario Domínguez Medal of Honor
Raúl Castellano Jiménez