| Tamayo, Rufino Biography
Mexican painter, Tamayo's paintings are characterized by intense color and partially abstract, flattened figures that derive from a number of sources, including Mexican folk art, pre-Columbian art, and the work of Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. Tamayo's work stands somewhat outside the mainstream of Mexican art, as he opposed the epic mural style of Mexican artists Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Tamayo felt that these muralists put too much emphasis on political and social issues at the expense of artistic quality. Although Tamayo painted numerous murals, he also pioneered a return to easel painting in Mexico.
Tamayo was born in Oaxaca of Zapotec Indian parents but went to live in Mexico City in 1911, after his parents died. He studied art at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City from 1917 to 1921. From 1921 to 1923 he worked for the National Archaeology Museum in Mexico City as head of the Department of Ethnographic Drawing. His close study of pre-Columbian objects there, along with his early memories of Native American culture in Oaxaca, inspired the solidity of his forms, his use of vivid colors, and the subject matter of many of his works. For instance, Animals (1941, Museum of Modern Art, New York City) depicts dogs that resemble pre-Columbian ceramic dog sculptures from the state of Colima.
Tamayo resided in New York City from 1926 to 1928, and upon returning to Mexico, he taught art and headed the Education Ministry's Fine Arts Department. His first mural commission, The Music and the Song for Mexico's National School of Music, was completed in 1933. In 1936 he moved back to New York City, where he spent most of each year until 1949.
The varied styles of Tamayo's oil paintings range from the stolid Cubist figures in Women of Tehuantepec (1939) to the expressive violence of the barking mongrels in Animals (1941). Tamayo generally used vibrant colours and solid compositions to depict natural subjects in a symbolic, stylized, or semiabstract mode.
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