Rufino Tamayo (1899 - 1991)


    Rufino Tamayo was born in Oaxaca in the south of Mexico. He trained in Mexico City and was a contemporary of the Mexican Muralists (dominated by José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Álfaro Siqueiros) and, like them, following the Mexican Revolution in 1910-20, he was invited by the minister of culture, José Vasconcelos, to create a truly national art. Before the Revolution, under president Porfirio Diaz, artists were generally expected to follow European artistic traditions, as taught in the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City. Tamayo’s preference for a less overtly political art and a desire to create art of a more universal nature, by merging Mexican cultural symbols with modern styles such as Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism. In search of greater artistic freedom Tamayo spent many years in New York (1926-1928 and 1936 to 1950) and Paris (1957-64), where his employment of Mexican themes and colours intensified.

    Of indigenous Zapotec ancestry, Tamayo first developed his lifelong interest in Mexico’s pre-Columbian artistic traditions when, from 1921, he assisted at and then directed the Department of Ethnographic drawings of the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Historia y Etnografía in Mexico City. Tamayo later donated his own collection of pre-Columbian sculpture (stone carvings and ceramics) to the Museo Rufino Tamayo in Oaxaca, and his collection of international art to the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City.

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