Francisco Toledo

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Francisco Toledo
Toledo in 2005
Francisco Benjamín López Toledo

(1940-07-17)17 July 1940
Died5 September 2019(2019-09-05) (aged 79)
NationalityMexican (Zapotec)[1]
Known forGraphic art
SpouseTrine Ellitsgaard[2]
AwardsRight Livelihood Award

Francisco Benjamín López Toledo (17 July 1940 – 5 September 2019) was a Mexican Zapotec painter,[2] sculptor, and graphic artist. In a career that spanned seven decades, Toledo produced thousands of works of art and became widely regarded as one of Mexico's most important contemporary artists.[3][4] An activist as well as an artist, he promoted the artistic culture and heritage of Oaxaca state.[5] Toledo was considered part of the Breakaway Generation of Mexican art.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Toledo was born in Mexico city in 1940, the child of Francisco López Orozco and Florencia Toledo Nolasco.[7] He studied at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Oaxaca and the Centro Superior de Artes Applicadas del Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico, where he studied graphic arts with Guillermo Silva Santamaria. As a young man, Toledo studied art in Paris where he met Rufino Tamayo and Octavio Paz.[8]



Toledo worked in various media, including pottery, sculpture, weaving, graphic arts, and painting.[9] There have been exhibitions of his work in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Japan, Sweden, the United States, as well as other countries.[10] His work is known for its portrayal of flora and fauna, mythical imagery, and erotic content. Art critic Dore Ashton characterized Toledo as "a modern artist who, like others such as Paul Klee, Marc Chagall and Miró, has learned the value of the sweeping glance into the minutest corners of nature."[11]

At the age of 19, a solo exhibition of his work in Fort Worth, Texas, received international attention.[10] Toledo lived and worked in Paris starting in 1960 and returned to Mexico in 1965.[12] He lived briefly in New York in the late 1970s, holding an exhibition at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. In 1980, Mexico City's Museo de Arte Moderno hosted a retrospective of his art.[13] His work was shown at both the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum of Chicago in 1984. Toledo settled in Oaxaca in the 1980s.[8]

Toledo was featured at the Venice Biennale in 1997. An exhibition of over 90 of his works was shown at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2000.[6][14] In 2017, the Fondo Cultural Banamex published a four-volume catalogue of Toledo's work, the result of a five-year investigation to track pieces held in museums, galleries, and private collections around the world.[4][15]

Art activism[edit]

"Chivo" (goat)

Toledo's social and cultural concerns about his home state led to his participation in the establishment of an art library at the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO),[16] as well as his involvement in the founding of the es:Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO),[17][18] the Patronato Pro-Defensa y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural de Oaxaca,[19] a library for the blind,[10] a photographic center,[7] and the Eduardo Mata Music Library.[20] A cultural conservationist, Toledo fought against the building of a McDonald's in Oaxaca City and led protests to stop the construction of a convention center on a local mountain.[8]

Following the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, Guerrero, Toledo made an exhibition of kites to remember the students, honoring a tradition from Oaxaca.[21] The exhibition was titled Duelo (Mourning), at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, and Fire and Earth at Latin American Masters, Los Angeles.[22]


Personal life[edit]

Toledo's parents were Zapotec.[1] He married three times, secondly to poet and translator Elisa Ramirez Castañeda and thirdly to Danish weaver Trine Ellitsgaard.[2] He was father of poet Natalia Toledo and artists Laureana Toledo and Dr Lakra.[24]

Francisco Toledo died on 5 September 2019 at the age of 79.[21]


On 17 July 2021, Google celebrated his 81st birthday with a Google Doodle.[25]


  1. ^ a b "Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Venados, 1981." Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed 7 April 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Goodwin, Christopher (29 May 2000). "His name is Francisco Toledo, but everyone calls him El Maestro". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  3. ^ Kandell, Jonathan (6 September 2019). "Francisco Toledo, Celebrated Mexican Artist and Arts Philanthropist, Dies at 79". New York Times. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Naum, Uriel (22 December 2017). "Los mexicanos más creativos en el mundo | Francisco Toledo, el brujo de Juchitán". Forbes México (in Mexican Spanish). Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  5. ^ Hernandez, Daniel (7 September 2019). "Francisco Toledo Embodied the Activist Soul of Oaxaca". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Francisco Toledo (1940–2019)". Art Forum. 6 September 2019. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  7. ^ a b González, Héctor (6 September 2019). "'Francisco Toledo, un artista que le hizo bien a la sociedad': Cuauhtémoc Medina – Aristegui Noticias". Aristegui Noticias. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  8. ^ a b c McDonnell, Patrick J. (6 September 2019). "Appreciation: Francisco Toledo, a colossus of Mexican culture". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  9. ^ Ollman, Leah (8 April 2016). "Critic's Choice: Primal lust in the art of Mexican master Francisco Toledo". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d Congdon, Kristin G.; Hallmark, Kara Kelley (2002). Artists from Latin American Cultures: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 268–270. ISBN 978-0-313-31544-2. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  11. ^ Ashton, Dore (1991). "Francisco Toledo". Latin American Masters. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  12. ^ Pyatt, Neil (2019). Contemporary Art and Community Altruism in Oaxaca: Hybrid Agency. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1-5275-2717-1. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  13. ^ "Artist – Francisco Toledo". IFPDA. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  14. ^ "Exhibitions: Francisco Toledo 20 June 2000 – 28 August 2000". Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  15. ^ "Libro "Francisco Toledo. Obra 1957 – 2017"". Fomento Cultural Banamex (in Mexican Spanish). Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  16. ^ Gobierno del Estado de Oaxaca. "Francisco Toledo".
  17. ^ "Adiós a Francisco Toledo, el genio oaxaqueño". El Universal (Mexico City). 6 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  18. ^ "Lugares en Oaxaca para conocer el legado de Francisco Toledo". El Universal (Mexico City). 6 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  19. ^ CAMACHO SERVIN, FERNANDO (30 September 2005). "Pro-Oax se ha convertido en referente crítico en la política cultural del país – La Jornada". La Jornada. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  20. ^ "Eduardo Mata Sound Recordings Library of the Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca". Mexico es Cultura. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Todos los colores se visten de negro: Francisco Toledo, el gran, gran pintor mexicano, ha muerto" [All colors are dressed in black: Francisco Toledo, the great, great Mexican painter, has died], Sin (in Spanish), 5 September 2019, retrieved 5 September 2019
  22. ^ LA Times Carolina A. Miranda
  23. ^ Zaken, Ministerie van Algemene. "Laudation address by His Royal Highness The Prince of Orange on behalf of His Royal Highness Prince Claus to the recipients of the Principal 2000 Prince Claus Award at the Royal Palace, Amsterdam, December 12, 2000".
  24. ^ Alumnos amagan con 'tomar' la Universidad de Oaxaca, Jorge Octavio Ochoa, El Universal, 21 September 2006
  25. ^ "Francisco Toledo's 81st Birthday". Google. 17 July 2021.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ LA Times, Carolina A. Miranda, How Mexican painter Francisco Toledo paid tribute to Mexico’s missing with ceramics