Van Gogh •
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Rufino Tamayo was born in Oaxaca. The fourth of Mexico's great muralists (the others being Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueriros), Tamayo spent many years in New York where he made his first contacts with contemporary American and European art.
A lithographer and easel painter before turning to murals, he shows a range of understanding in both subject matter and technique. Tamayo's work indicates the influences of Braque, Picasso, Expressionism, and Abstraction. It is delicate in design, warmly subtle in coloration, and symbolic in its presentation of a haunting world that hovers between the animal and the human. Tamayo's world is indicative of pre-Columbian influences in its references to a religion that invested its gods with both human and animal characteristics. His work differs from that of his Mexican predecessors of the early twentieth century in its poetic nuances, which contrast sharply with the large, forceful, and often heavy forms of other Mexican painters. Among the most important murals are those for Smith College (1943); Homage to the Race (1952), an abstract work; the allegory America in Houston, Texas: and The Combat of Night and Day (1964) in the Mexican Museum of Anthropology.
In the latter, night is represented as a tiger and day as a plumed serpent, a figure taken from Mayan and Aztec mythology. Tamayo was an original artist who remained faithful to his own visions throughout his career, subduing his nationalism to a more universal portrayal of essentially simple, humanistic themes.