(1899 – 1991)



Rufino Tamayo was born in the south of Mexico in Oaxaca on 1899. Tamayo began his studies in art initially in 1917, in the Academia de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. Tamayo later left school since the education he was receiving was not of his liking and decided to pursue his studies independently. Tamayo a painter, printmaker, muralist and sculptor began working at the Department of Ethnographic Drawings, where he was exposed to Pre-Colombian art, which became a strong influence in his work. Tamayo’s pieces reference Pre-Colombian art but are juxtaposed as well with different European styles of painting such as Cubism, Fauvism and Surrealism, which influenced Tamayo strongly as well. 


At the time in Mexico the art scene was strongly influenced by the muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquieros but Tamayo’s work did not align with them exactly. Tamayo was against the political rhetoric of the paintings of the Mexican muralist and instead chose to focus more on the formal and the aesthetic in his work. For example his famous piece from 1947, Children Playing with Fire shows his discontent with the Mexican Revolution of 1910 where he shows in the painting the damage it has caused to its own people. Due to the discontent this painting caused within the Mexican society, Tamayo felt he could not paint as freely and decided to move to New York in 1926. In New York City, Tamayo began teaching at the Dalton School and had a series of exhibitions as well. He returned Oaxaca in 1959 where he constructed a museum with his Pre-Colombian art collection, called the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Pre-Hispanic art. Moreover Tamayo then donated his European art collection and contributed with the establishment of the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City.


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