van Dyk Gallery

  • Rufino Tamayo
  • 1899-1979

Rufino Tamayo and his art are paradoxical. His lifeblood and its artistic expression are deeply rooted in the traditions of ancient Mexico. The man and his painting are thoroughly Mexican yet they have been nurtured by modern European art. Tamayo has grasped the essence of these two disparate worlds and has united them on canvas.

Born in Oaxaca, Mexico, on August 26, 1899, Tamayo was orphaned by the age of twelve. He moved to Mexico City to live with an aunt who sent him to commercial school to prepare him for work in her wholesale fruit business. Tamayo secretly began to study drawing at night; soon thereafter in 1917, having abandoned business school, he enrolled in a drawing class at the academia de Arte de San Carlos, Mexico City. In 1921 Tamayo left San Carlos to escape its conservative program and work independently.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1921 and its aftermath profoundly affected the arts and influenced the young Tamayo. In their monumental propagandistic murals, Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros expressed their sympathy with the revolution. Rejecting foreign art movements, these artists developed a national style suited to communicating the socialist spirit of the revolution. With the end of this rebellion and the establishment of a new government a renewed and powerful interest arose in the heritage of the Mexican Indian and his earlier cultures. When Tamayo was appointed Head of the Department of Ethnographic Drawing of the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia, Mexico City, in 1921, his duties included drawing important pre-Columbian objects in this museum'ss collection; thus pre-Columbian art became a basic source for his personal artistic idiom. However, Tamayo did not adopt the propagandistic narrative style and social content of the muralists; in fact, he organized his own one-man show in a small, empty shop so that he could exhibit the lyrical work he head painted as an alternative to the dominant mural art. He at once rejected the radical social message and didactic form of he art of the revolution and was inspired by the renaissance of earlier traditions brought about by the same upheaval.

In 1926 Tamayo also made his first trip to New York and decided to stay in that city. Shortly there-after an exhibition of his work took place there at the Weyhe Gallery. The show included early paintings which are for the most part still life and scenes of daily Mexican life. A characteristic one of these, Still Life of 1928, is imbued with an inner warmth and familiarity: through pure colors and perfected technique the fruits depicted proclaim the Mexican sun and climate yet bear witness to a knowledge of European traditions of composition.

Tamayo returned to Mexico City in 1928; within the next years he held various teaching positions and was given periodic exhibitions. He received his first mural commission from the Escuela Nacional de Musica, Mexico City, in 1932, for which he completed Musica the following year. In 1936 the artist came back to New York, settling there for about fifteen years, but summering always in Mexico. Tamayo worked briefly in the easel division of the WPA and soon began to exhibit regularly in both New York and Mexico. In New York he taught art and was exposed to the work of Europeans such as Picasso and Braque, to Cubism and geometric abstraction, to Surrealism and to the burgeoning New York School. During this period Tamayo continued to pain Mexican genre scenes with massive, heavy figures as well as intimate still lifes.

From 1941 to 1943 Tamayo depicted howling dogs. Typical is Animals of 1941, in which the bodies of creatures are composed of fantastically colored, simplified geometric forms. Although the shapes are distorted and exaggerated, there is a sense of naturalism. The strong influence of Picasso is apparent, yet Tamayo does not take his abstraction as far as the European painter: his forms still seem real and of this world. His colors remain pure; emotion is sure and powerful.

In 1943 Tamayo completed a mural commission for the Hillyer Art Library of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The theme and the degree of abstraction of the fresco, which is divided into two panels, Nature and the Artist and The Work of Art and the Observer, illustrate the artist's independence from the Mexican muralists. As Robert Goldwater pointed out in his 1947 book on Tamayo, Rivera and Orozco treated the grandiose story of the Creation  Tamayo, on the other hand, relinquished Creation for the depiction of artistic re-creation. Abstraction is more decisive now: the figures in this fresco have been reduced further than the animals in the preceding howling dog series, and the entire composition has been meticulously worked out with particular attention to the use of planes of color and intersecting lines.

By the Mid-forties Tamayo had focused his attention primarily on man. Man dances by the sea, reaches for the moon and contemplates nature. He lives among the elements yet has been released from the earth, for he has lost the weight and substance which once had anchored him so solidly to the ground. Lighter and more energetic than before, these figures never rest but move always within highly stylized settings of broken, interpenetrating, jutting surfaces. Dynamism prevails.

In 1949 Tamayo made his first trip to Europe and remained in Paris briefly before returning home to Mexico. From this time Tamayo's work became well-known throughout Europe and the United States. He has since then participated in many exhibitions, completed numerous mural commissions and received awards and prizes for his artistic accomplishment.

In Tamayo's paintings of the fifties, night skies, the heavens and the cosmos form backdrops for an often isolated and lonely being. The forms of the figures are highly abstract yet are identifiable as men or women. Although Tamayo intends no Surrealist symbolism, the works are reminiscent of Miro's landscapes of the twenties in which solitary figures inhabit vast, empty terrains. Instead, his people project recognizable emotions. Tormented or elated, man is, above all, alone.

Concurrent with these works, in the middle of the decade, Tamayo produced a body of paintings whos subject appears at first to be those of the space age. With titles such as Supersonic Plane, Cosmic Terror and The Astronomer, they indeed seem to be documents of the new ear of space technology and travel. However, Tamayo, as usual, eschews any social message in these paintings. He does not record contemporary events or comment upon the destructiveness of twentieth-century man. On the contrary, Tamayo was probably moved by the concern with astronomy manifested in the art of his pre-Columbian forbears rather than by the discoveries of our own day. The same sun and moon which inspired pre-Columbian artists are omnipresent forces in Tamayo's painted world, creating, affecting and perhaps even ending man's life. The artist has often said that the metaphysics of the ancient people are so deeply a part of him that without thought or intent they become n automatic framework for almost every canvas. In The Astronomer of 1954, the deep browns and rusts of the background evoke a brooding mood. The central image is comprised of circular, whirling planes of earthen tones. Discernable within this mysterious form is what may be a face with a wide-open eye which seems to stare in awe at two bright yellow spheres with conical projections: the eclipsed sun shedding its light and power on the moon.

as taken from: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (June 1979)

 

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purchasing this fine art.


Rufino Tamayo
"Moon over Landscape" 8/100
Mixographia
19 1/2 x 27 1/2
$10,000


Rufino Tamayo
"Purple Head" 42/75
Mixographia
22 1/4 x 29
$12,000


Rufino Tamayo
"Black Next to Yellow"
84/100
Mixographia
27 1/2 x 35 1/2
$20,000


Rufino Tamayo
"Estela" 81/100
(1977) Mixographia
74x57cm
$13,000


Rufino Tamayo
"Jumping Child" 11/100
Mixographia
$18.500


Rufino Tamayo
"Red Man and
Red Sun" 68/100
Mixographia
19 3/4 x 27
$21,500


Rufino Tamayo
"Cara en Rojo" 68/100
(1977) Mixographia
20x70 cm
$10,000


Rufino Tamayo
"Man in Black
with Red" 3/100
31" x 40"
$22,500


Rufino Tamayo
"Luna" 58/100
Mixographia
29" x 22"
$10,000


Rufino Tamayo
"Figura de Pie" 86/100
(1977) Mixographia
69x49 cm
$10,000