Rufino Tamayo Biography

Rufino Tamayo




Rufino del Carmen Arellanes Tamayo, painter, muralist, designer, sculptor, and printmaker, was born in Oaxaca, Mexico on 26 August 1899. After the death of his parents in 1911, he went to live with his aunt in Mexico City. In 1917 he was enrolled at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas and he later worked as a draftsman for the Museo Nacional de Arqueología and, in 1921, was appointed head of the department of Ethnographic Drawing. In 1926, Tamayo left Mexico City for New York, where his second exhibition was mounted at the Weyhe Gallery in Manhattan that same year. His first major retrospective was held in Mexico City in 1948. Tamayo and his wife, Olga, moved to Paris in 1957 and they returned to Mexico City permanently in 1959.

In the early 1970s, Tamayo helped to develop mixografía, a technique designed to create three-dimensional, textured prints on handmade paper. In 1984, he wrote about this technique: “Color in Mixografía is different from that in lithography or engraving because ink is thinner than pigment. In engraving, ink is applied with a roller and in Mixografía, with a paintbrush; consequently, the impressions are different. Woodblock printing creased to interest me and I have never like etching. In the new techniques I found my kindred language. Mixografía accepts any material: plaster, metal, or wood plates. But I admit that it is the artist’s temperament and mental state that makes him change any color.”

His exhibitions have been in major museums such as the Palacio Nacional de Bellas Artes, México, the Philips Collection in Washington, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, as well as important art galleries throughout the world. The French government named Rufino Tamayo Chevalier and Officier de la Légion d’Hommeur in 1956 and 1969, and he was the recipient of numerous other honors and awards.

Rufino Tamayo founded two museums in Mexico, the Rufina Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City and Museo Rufino Tamayo, dedicated to pre-Columbian art, in Oaxaca. His work is in the permanent collections of the Georgia Museum of Art, Athens; the Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.

Rufino Tamayo died in Mexico City on 24 June 1991.