Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) was born in Oaxaca, Mexico. The paintings and graphics of Rufino Tamayo have acquired a decisive importance in contemporary art in terms both of its high quality, maintained throughout a long, intense life, and its special significance. He was very clearly one of the greatest of American creators and, at the same time, one of the artists who managed to penetrate deepest into the reality of today's Man, going beyond his historical dimension. His knowledge of the great pre-Columbian cultures allowed him to make an extraordinary synthesis which forms part of a universalist conception of art. Tamayo sought the essential, which he expressed through a deliberately limited range of colours in order to give the freest possible rein to tonal interplay. His subject matter tends to be simple - figures of men and women, animals -, almost sketchy, although charged with content.
Tamayo occupied a privileged situation. He was a modern man, one who had a complete knowledge of a cultural environment - our cultural environment - which he had helped to shape, and at the same time he had a past which in him was present. In that other world of his there were none of the usual clear-cut distinctions between time left behind, present and future. In all the ancient cultures the community was composed of the living and the dead. Nor was there the modern categorical break between men, animals and trees or plants.
One might say, writes Jacques Lassaigne, that, in the same way as pre-Columbian art, Tamayo's painting is at the same time metaphor, geometry and transfiguration. Octavio Paz comments: This is painting as a double of the universe: not its symbol but its projection on the canvas. The picture is not a representation or an ensemble of signs: it is a constellation of forces. Through this double approach, that of the prestigious French critic and that of the great Mexican poet and essayist, the viewer is better able to unravel the mysteries of one of the great artistic creations of our era.


Rufino Tamayo, painter, muralist and lithographer, was born in Oaxaca, Mexico in 1899. In 1911 he moved to Mexico City, and in 1917 he entered the Academy of Fine Arts there, which he left in 1921.

Tamayo had lived in New York for twenty years and in Paris for twelve.

Is appointed Chief of the Ethnographic Department (drawing) section in the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Ciudad de México.

First one-man show in Mexico City. Visits New York for the first time and has his first one-man show in that city at the Weyhe Gallery.

One-man show at the Galería de Arte Moderno, Mexico City

One-man show at the National Theatre (now the Palacio de Bellas Artes) in Mexico City.

One-man show at the John Levy Galleries, New York.

Paints the mural Music and Singing for the Conservatorio Nacional de Música, Mexico City

One-man show at the Galería de Carolina Amor, Mexico City. Participated in The Carnegie International Exhibition, Pittsburgh, PA.

One-man shows at the Julien Levy Gallery, New York and the Howard Putzel Gallery, San Francisco.

Paints the mural Revolution for the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Mexico City. One-man shows at e Galería de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City and the Catherine Kuh Gallery, Chicago.

   One-man show at the Valentine Gallery (Valentine Dudensing) New York.

One-man show at the Valentine Gallery. Takes part in the exhibition Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

One-man show at the Valentine Gallery, New York.

One-man show, Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, NY. One-man show, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA. Paints the mural La Naturaleza y el Artista y La Obra de Arte y el Observador for the Hillyer Art Library, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Exhibition at the Galería de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City.

One-man show at the Arts Club, Chicago.

Is appointed a teacher (the Rufino Tamayo Studio) at the Brooklyn Museum. One-man show at the Valentine Gallery, New York.

One-man shows at the Modern Art Society, Cincinnati Art Museum, the Galería de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City, and the Valentine and Pierre Matisse Galleries, New York.

Exposición Retrospectiva in homage to Rufino Tamayo on his completing twenty-five years as a painter held at the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico City.

One-man show at the Galería de Arte Moderno Misrachi, Mexico City. Visits Europe and settles in Paris.

Takes part in the Venice Biennale, at which three rooms are devoted to his work. One-man shows at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, and the Knoedler Gallery, New York.

One-man shows at the Instituto de Arte Moderno in Buenos Aires, the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana, Mexico City, the Frank Perls Gallery, Los Angeles, and the Knoedler Gallery, New York.

Third prize at the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh. Takes part in the exhibition Art Mexicain du Précolumbien à nos jours, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris. Paints mural México Moderno y Nacimiento de Nuestra Nacionalidad for the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico City. One-man shows at the Fort Worth Museum (Fort Worth, Texas) and the Panamerican Union, Washington, D.C.

Gran Premio de Pintura (together with Manessier), Bienal de São Paulo Biennale in Brazil. Paints mural El Hombre, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas.

One-man shows at the following galleries: Galería Excelsior and Salón de la Plástica Mexicana, Mexico City; Knoedler Gallery, New York; Frank Perls Gallery, Los Angeles; Santa Barbara Museum of Arts, Santa Barbara, California; San Francisco Museum of Arts, San Francisco, California. Paints mural Dia y Noche, Sanbornís Reforma, Mexico City

Second prize at the Carnegie International Exhibition, Pittsburgh. Paints the mural America, Bank of the Southwest, Houston, Texas.

One-man shows at the Galería Antonio Souza, Mexico City; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Knoedler Gallery, New York.

Is made a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur by the French Government. Paints the mural Prometeo for the Library of the University of Puerto Rico.

Paints mural Prometeo, Sala de Conferencias, UNESCO building in Paris. Exhibition at the Galerie de France, Paris.

Becomes a Corresponding Member of the Academia de Arte, Buenos Aires. One-man shows at Kunsternes Hus, Oslo, the Felix Landau Gallery, Los Angeles and the Knoedler Gallery, New York. Participates in Documenta II in Kassel, Germany.

Awarded a prize by the Guggenheim International Foundation. One-man show at the Galerie de France, Paris. International Prize at the Bienal Interamericana de México.

Is elected a member of the institute and Academy of Arts and Letters of the United States.

One-man shows at the Galería Misrachi, Mexico City and the Knoedler Gallery, New York.

Paints the murals Israel de Ayer e Israel de Hoy for the Israeli liner, Transatlántico Shalom. Retrospective exhibition organized by the Mainichi newspaper chain in Tokyo. Travelling exhibition in Israel organized by the Association of Museums of Israel.

Is awarded the National Prize presented by the President of the Republic of Mexico, Adolfo López Mateos. Does 26 lithographs for the Ford Foundation (in editions of 20 each) at the Tamarind Workshop, Los Angeles. Paints the mural Dualidad, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City. One-man show at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City.

One-man show at the Galerie Semiha Huber, Zürich.

Paints the mural San Cristóbal, offices of Roberto Garcia Mora, Mexico City.

Paints the mural El Mexicano y su Mundo,Pabellón Mexicano, Expo 67, Montreal.

Retrospective exhibition to celebrate his fifty years as a painter, with 103 oils and lithographs, at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City. Great exhibition of 124 works belonging to American collections at the Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona. Paints the mural Fraternidad for the Mexican Pavilion at the International Fair of San Antonio, Texas. One-man show at the National Museum of Art, Belgrade. Guest of honor with one-man exhibition at Venice Biennale.

Produces 20 lithographs at the Atelier Desjaubert in Paris for Touchstone and Co., New York. Paints the large mural Energy (75 square-metre) mural for the Club de Industriales de México at the Hotel Camino Real, Mexico City. Is awarded the Ibico Reggino Prize Reggio Calabria, sponsored by the President of Italy. Receives the Calouste Gulbenkian Prize, presented at the Institut de France, Paris.

The French Government awards him the dignity of an Officiel de la Légion d'Honneur.

Is made a Commendatore of the Italian Republic. One-man show at the Perls Gallery, New York. Paints the mural Hombre Frente al Firmamento, Hotel Camino Real, Mexico City, which is unveiled by the President of the Republic.

The State of Oaxaca pays homage to Tamayo, naming him Favorite Son, awarding him the Juárez Medal and changing the name of one of the streets of its capital, Oaxaca de Juárez, from Calle de los Arcos to Calle de Rufino Tamayo.

Does 15 lithographs for Ediciones Polígrafa of Barcelona and 5 lithographs for the publishing house of Giorgio Alessandrini in Rome. One-man shows at the Galería Misrachi, Mexico City and the Perls Gallery, New York.

Donates a Museum of pre-Columbian Art, with 1,300 pieces, to the State of Oaxaca, his native land. Important one-man show at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, with 100 oils painted in the sixties and seventies. The French Government names Rufino Tamayo a Knight Commander of the Order of Merit. One-man show at Galería del Círculo, Mexico City.

Important exhibition (the same one as in Paris) at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence. Is presented with the Medal of Florence at the Palazzo della Signoria and the Silver Plaque at the Palazzo dei Medici. Does 15 etchings for Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona.

Exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City. One-man show at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Does 8 mixographs for Transworld Art of New York and 16 for Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona.

Important exhibition to mark the opening of the Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas, attended by the President of Venezuela, Carlos Andrés Pérez. Paints the mural Eclipse Total, Sociedad Industrial ALFA, Monterrey. Takes part in the 45th Biennale of São Paulo, at which he receives the homage of the entire continent with an exhibition consisting of 125 of his oils and 60 graphic works. Exhibition in his honor in San Salvador (El Salvador), where he is named an Honorary Citizen of the Republic. One-man show at the Marlborough Gallery, New York.

One-man show at the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., under the auspices of the United States Government.

Important exhibition, Myth and Magic, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, with 114 oils done between 1928 and 1979 and 3 murals. Another exhibition, of drawings, watercolours, gouaches and graphic work, at the Center for Inter-American Relations, New York. One-man show at the Marlborough Gallery, London. Does 15 etchings for Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona.

Official opening, in May, of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, in the Chapultepec Park, Mexico City. Tamayo donates to the people of Mexico his considerable collection of modern paintings, sculptures, drawings and tapestries by 174 artists from all over the world, as well as a superb collection of his own works. One-man show at the Marlborough Gallery, New York.

Made Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Southern California. One-man shows at the Bernard Lewin Gallery, Beverly Hills; the Mixografia Gallery, Los Angeles; the Marlborough Gallery, London; Museo de Arte Costarricense, Costa Rica; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Panamá, Panamá.

Exhibition Rufino Tamayo: Graphik 1962-1982 at the Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna. Produces the sculpture The La Conquista del Espacio, San Francisco Airport. Awarded the Albert Einstein Prize by the Technion Society, Israel. One-man graphs show Arte y Proceso de la Mixografía, Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, to present the monumental Mixografía, Dos Personajes Atacados Por Perros. One-man show at FIAC, Paris.

Made Foreign Correspondent Scholar by the St. Luke Academy, Rome. Participated in the Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano, Puerto Rico. One-man shows at the Fox Fine Arts Center, University of Texas, El Paso, TX; Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art, New York, NY; and a show in Tokyo organized by the Marlborough Gallery, New York.

Retrospective exhibition of mixographies at the B. Lewin Gallery, Palm Springs, California Contributes three lithographs to the portfolio dedicated to the Declaration of Human Rights. Among the other contributing artists are Tàpies, Chillida and Motherwell. Made member of the Royal Academy, London. King Juan Carlos of Spain awards him the Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts. Is awarded one of the five prizes granted by the Frenchen Art Society, Switzerland, for his participation in the 10th International Triennial of Original Graphic Prints. Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, San Antonio, Texas. One-man show at the Marlborough Gallery, New York.

Retrospective of his work at the Museo de Monterrey. Homage is paid to him at the VII Bienal de Grabado Interamericano y del Caribe with a retrospective of his graphic work. The Museo Rufino Tamayo comes to form part of the circuit of museums of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. Retrospective at the Museo Regional de Guadalajara. Exhibitions at the Bienal Iberoamericana de Arte Seriado, Sevilla, Spain; San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX and the Bernard Lewin Gallery, Palm Springs, California.

Exhibitions at the Brandstater Gallery, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA; National Gallery of Victoria, Australia; Museum of Modern Art, Santa Ana, CA; Retrospective at the Modern Museum of Art, Woodland Hills, California. Made Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres de France. Rufino Tamayo having completed seven decades of creative activity, Mexican authorities decide to organize a National Homage at Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes and at the Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo Rufino Tamayo. The homage is also presented at cultural institutes and museums in the province of Mexico.

Retrospectiva Rufino Tamayo: 1974-1988, Mixografia Gallery, Los Angeles. Pinturas de Rufino Tamayo, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. Unveiling of his stained-glass work El Universo, in Monterrey, displayed in a specially designed and built pavilion. The Dominican government awards him the Orden de Cristóbal Colón. Awarded the Belisario Domínguez medal, the highest honour bestowed by the Mexican Government. Exhibition of graphic work at the Museo de Casas Reales, Santo Domingo.

Awarded the Commendatore medal by the Italian government. Exhibition Rufino Tamayo: Pintura y Gráfica in the Central Hall of Artists, Tretyakov Museum, Moscow. The same show is subsequently presented in the Edvard Munch Museum, Oslo. Undergoes a delicate open-heart operation in Houston.

The exhibition Rufino Tamayo: Pintura y Gráfica is inaugurated at the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad (today St. Petersburg), later to be presented in the Staatliche Kunsthalla, Berlin. After a process of restoration, the fresco mural Music and Singing is once again shown to the public in Mexico City. One-man shows at Kimberly Gallery, Washington, DC; Dorsky Gallery, New York; Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Chicago. Exhibition of paintings from the eighties at the Marlborough Gallery, New York. Produces his last painting: El muchacho del violón.

In April the Los Tamayo old-people's home is opened in Oaxaca. On May 21 he is made member of El Colegio Nacional. On May 24 the government of the state of Veracruz pays homage to him by opening the Galería del Estado in Xalapa, with an exhibition of his graphic work. Made Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Veracruz. Rufino Tamayo dies in Mexico City on June 24. His body is mourned in the Palacio de Bellas Artes. His ashes are deposited in the Museo Rufino Tamayo.

Exhibitions at Mary-Anne Martin Fine Arts, New York; Homage to Rufino Tamayo: 1928-1991, Latin American Masters Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA; Tribute to Tamayo, The Remba Gallery, Santa Monica, CA.



Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels


Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro


Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
Arizona State University Art Collections, Arizona
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Brooklyn Museum, New York
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin
Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee
Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis
Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, New York
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum of Modern Art, Houston
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Museum, Phoenix
National Museum, St. Louis
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix
New York Public Library, New York
San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco
Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis
University of Louisville Allen R. Hite Institute, Kentucky
University of Oregon, Oregon
Washington University, St. Louis
Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, Kansas
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut


Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris
UNESCO, Mural for Conference Room, Paris


Tate Gallery, London


Museum of Fine Arts, Jerusalem


Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderne, Rome
Musei Vaticani, Ciudad del Vaticano, Rome


Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo


Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City
Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City
Museo de Monterrey, Monterrey, N. L.
Museo Nacioal de Arte, Mexico City


Museum Kunstnerns Hus, Oslo
Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo

Puerto Rico

Universidad de Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus


Museo de Arte Moderno, Caracas
Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas


Turner, Jane Shoaf: The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York, Macmillan, 2000.
Bénézit, Emmanuel: Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des, sculpteurs et dessinateurs. Paris, Librairie Gründ, 1999.
Corredor-Matheos, J.: Tamayo; Barcelona, Ediciones Polígrafa, S.A., 1987.
Paz, Octavio/Lassaigne, Jacques: Rufino Tamayo; Barcelona, Ediciones Polígrafa-Ediapsa, 1982.

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