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Rufino Tamayo

August 26, 1899 - June 24, 1991


Rufino Tamayo is a Mexican artist who worked across media, including paintings, drawings, and prints. As a young adult, he was orphaned and moved from Oaxaca to Mexico City to live with his aunt. After taking drawing lessons in school, Tamayo devoted his life to studying and practicing art. His early work references pre-Columbian ceramics, which was also the focus of his position at the Museo Nacional Arqueología in Mexico City. After the Mexican Revolution ended in 1917, many muralists emerged, though Tamayo did not paint his first until 1933. Unlike many Mexican artists of the time, he opposed the revolution, which made him unpopular; he moved to New York, establishing himself as an artist. After living in Mexico City and New York, Tamayo and his wife moved to Paris in 1949. In 1959, they moved to Oaxaca, built a museum, and lived there for the rest of their life. Throughout his career, Tamayo painted murals, portraits, and still lives; he also held a teaching position for nearly a decade. As a teacher, he instructed his protegés, Francisco Toledo and Veronica Ruiz de Velasco. Tamayo’s work displays inspirations from Mexican folk art and the emerging European modernisms of artists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. His paintings are mainly abstractions with surrealist tendencies, though there are influences of cubism and his cultural heritage. He tends to use fewer colors, as he believed it allowed for greater possibilities of the art itself. Some other muralists and peers in Mexico include Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco.

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