Rufino Tamayo (1899 - 1991)

Figura prehispánica VII. Bebé, Cultura Olmeca (1976)
Prehispanic Figure VII. Baby, Olmec Culture

Lithograph on paper
height: 56cm
width: 45.5cm

Donated by the Fundación Olga y Rufino Tamayo 1997


Tamayo's lithograph Bebé is one of two in the Figuras Prehispánicas series that the artist based on Olmec figurines. Bebé highlights the common and rather striking Olmec practice of creating infant figures. The significance of such figurines is uncertain; perhaps they are representations of deities or elite members of Olmec society, although it has also been suggested that they indicate a sacrificial ritual. Tamayo's figure is seated in one of the usual infant figure poses, with arms and legs widely spread and counter-balancing each other and a plaited line descends from the crown of the baby's head and crosses its brow. With a curled lip, the baby bears a row of prominent teeth. While Tamayo felt that sculpture was the most important art form within Prehispanic culture, the artist rarely created sculptures himself, stating that his goal was to 'make everything as flat as possible' and calling his art 'the negation of sculpture' (Tamayo, 1989: 42). In Bebé, Tamayo simplifies the typical rolls of baby fat of these figures into a basic triangular shape constructed out of the waist and legs, transforming and flattening the rounded sculpture.

Rufino Tamayo in interview with Janet Brody Esser and Margarita Nieto, 'A Conversation with a Mexican Master: Rufino Tamayo.' Latin American Art Magazine: Fall 1989.

Terri Geis, 2008

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