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Rufino Tamayo

Mexican  •  1899-1991

Biography

Born in Oaxaca, Mexico, Rufino Tamayo was an incredibly prolific artist working until his death at the age of 91. Half-European and half-Zapotec Indian, Tamayo produced work that was defined by his mestizo, or mixed-blood, heritage. Through his studies, Tamayo was exposed to every artistic school of his time including Fauvism, the classical French school, Cubism and Abstract Expressionism, all of which contributed to his style as it developed throughout his life.

Tamayo reacted strongly against the Mexican muralists who dominated the art scene during his coming of age. Instead, his work is firmly grounded in realism while taking creative liberties in color and composition. His art emulates a unique blend of Cubism and Surrealism, joined with a deep understanding of Mexican culture.

Insights

  • Tamayo disagreed with the muralists and was characterized by some as a "traitor" to the political cause. He felt he could not express himself freely, which prompted his move to New York.

  • Tamayo worked at the Archeological Museum in Mexico City as a young man, which would later influence his art. He compared this to the European modernist interest in Primitivism, but as half-Indian himself, Tamayo felt his use and understanding of these ancient cultures was personal rather than an exploitation of an exotic culture.

"A revolutionary painter must be revolutionary in his method."

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