Artists & Designers
Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)
Rufino Tamayo was a Mexican printmaker, painter, and muralist, known for his innovation in lithography, monumental paintings, and vivid use of color. Born on August 26, 1899 in Oaxaca, Mexico, Tamayo briefly trained at the Academia de San Carlos (San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts), before leaving only a year later to teach himself.
Tamayo resided regularly in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1930s Tamayo moved to New York, where he would become inspired by modern art, especially the work of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Henri Matisse. Tamayo was active in the movement toward large-scale Mexican painting and the Mexican muralist school. His work had a great impact, for in his style he managed to synthesize the Mexican, French, and New York avant-garde while searching for the expression of a Mexican national identity. His values were essentially oriented toward the defense of a Mexican aesthetic language—constant reference to figuration without being properly narrative or mimetic—and the need for universality in art. The nationalism open to foreign influences proposed by Tamayo was vigorously opposed to the theories of “The Big Three,” or Los Tres __Grandes: Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco, who were in favor of a single nationalist language that, in theory at least, would accept no influences from abroad. Throughout his career, Tamayo exhibited the aesthetic and iconography of the post-Revolutionary Mexican School, avoiding the controversial subject matter preferred by his contemporaries.
Tamayo lived in Paris from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, working on perfecting his lithographic technique, eventually settling in Mexico. In 1974 he donated his large collection of pre-Columbian art to the city of Oaxaca, which served as the foundation for the Rufino Tamayo Museum of pre-Hispanic Art. A few years before his death in 1981, Tamayo and his wife donated their collection of international art to the Mexican state. This collection later became the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City (Museo Rufino Tamayo, Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo). Tamayo died on June 24, 1991 in Mexico City.
- Erin Piñon, DMA unpublished material, 2016.
- México 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant Garde, Gallery text [Rufino Tamayo in New York], 2017.
Read more about the life of Rufino Tamayo.
Learn more about the artist, and explore links to other famous artists in Tamayo's circle.
- Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo (Museo Rufino Tamayo)
Visit Mexico City's Rufino Tamayo Museum website to learn more about the artist.
- Rufino Tamayo: The Sources of His Art
Watch a short clip from the 1972 film_ by Gary Conklin, and learn more about Tamayo and his art._
- Tamayo's El Hombre
Watch a 1999 video in Spanish produced by Canal 22 Mexico City, and learn more about the artist and the DMA's _El Hombre._
- Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
Watch a 1967 video in Spanish produced by National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) about the life and work of Rufino Tamayo.
- Museo Rufino Tamayo
Watch a short 2017 animated video about the life and work of the artist, made for the Mobile Museum project within the educational area of the Rufino Tamayo Museum in Mexico City.