• Latin American Sale auction at Christies

    Sale 2222

    Latin American Sale

    17 - 18 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 51

    Rufino Tamayo (Mexican 1899-1991)

    Mujeres

    Price Realised  

    Rufino Tamayo (Mexican 1899-1991)
    Mujeres
    signed and dated 'Tamayo, O-60' (upper left)--titled and dated again 'MUJERES, PARIS- 1960' (on the reverse)
    oil and sand on canvas
    51½ x 77¼ in. (131 x 196.2 cm.)
    Painted in Paris in 1960.


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    We are grateful to Art Historian Juan Carlos Pereda for his assistance in cataloguing this work.


    Mujeres synthesizes many of the characteristics for which Tamayo's mature work is celebrated. Set in a room with a louvered window, two female figures, reduced to elemental lines and circles, stand before a large, looming form of an animal. Inspired by Cubism, the geometric shapes overlap and conflate the figures, thereby challenging traditional perspective and composition. The tight spatial relationship between the women and the animal suggests the interconnectedness of humanity and nature. Likewise, modernity and antiquity fuse in Mujeres. The areas of pattern that cup the left and right shoulders of the women, for example, mimic a jaguar's coat and a feathered wing, alluding to representations found in Mesoamerican codices and murals. Overall, the painting represents a continuum of a culture spanning from the origins of Mexican civilization up to the present and into the future.

    The animal depicted in Mujeres lacks the aggression and violence imparted in Tamayo's paintings of animals of the 1940s, which were allegories of war and destruction. In the postwar and Cold War years in which Mujeres was painted, Tamayo and other artists were preoccupied with sublime and humanist concerns.(1)

    Tamayo's longstanding, paramount interest in color and form, in the pursuit of a "pure art," arte puro, fed an ongoing debate between Tamayo and muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros about the social role and pictorial ideal of modern Mexican art. Compared to the highly politicized and social realist pictorial program of the Muralists, Tamayo's work presents a stark contrast. The figures depicted in Mujeres and other paintings of his mature period are indeed stripped down to elemental forms, but Tamayo never abandoned figural art. Tamayo contended that "returning painting to its 'pure qualities' did not necessarily mean no subject matter or pure abstraction but rather an emphasis on technique and the act of painting."(2) Dedication to this principle produced a body of work which, through the eyes of Octavio Paz, "does not give us the sensation of reality: it confronts us with the reality of sensations. The most immediate and most direct sensations: colors, form, touch."(3)

    Tamayo and his wife Olga took up residence in New York City in 1936, and they later resided in Paris. Tamayo fused his encounters with the art of the Abstract Expressionists and the French modern masters into his provocative style, while always maintaining his steadfast Mexican artistic identity. "I took advantage of all that I saw for the purpose of having a painting that had a Mexican stamp but that was universal at the same time."(4) In 1960, the same year that Mujeres was painted, he and Olga decided to return to Mexico permanently.

    Celeste Donovan.

    1) D. C. DuPont, "'Realistic, Never Descriptive': Tamayo and the Art of Abstract Figuration," in Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted, Santa Barbara, CA., Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 2007, 75.
    2) R. Tamayo, Textos de Rufino Tamayo, Raquel Tibol, ed., Mexico City, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 1987, 30.
    3) O. Paz, "An Art of Transfigurations," in Rufino Tamayo, Myth and Magic, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1979, 22.
    4) R. Tamayo, Textos de Rufino Tamayo, 89.

    Provenance

    Galerie de France, Paris.
    Gulf American Corporation.
    Galería de Arte Misrachi, Mexico City.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.


    Literature

    J. García Ponce, Tamayo, Galería de Arte Misrachi, Tudor Publishing Company, New York, 1967 (illustrated).
    Exhibition catalogue, Tamayo: Peintures 1960-1974, Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1974, no. 6 (illustrated).
    Exhibition catalogue, Tamayo: Peintures 1960-1974, Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, 1975, no. 3 (illustrated in color).
    Exhibition catalogue, Rufino Tamayo, Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art, 1976, no. 8 (illustrated).
    Exhibition catalogue, Rufino Tamayo: Myth and Magic, New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1979, p. 92, no. 67 (illustrated).
    O. Paz and J. Lassaigne, Rufino Tamayo, Rizzoli, New York, 1982, p. 104, no. 59 (illustrated in color).
    O. Paz, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, Rufino Tamayo, 70 años de Creación, 1987 (illustrated in color).
    D. Bayón, Hacia Tamayo, Mexico City, Fundación Olga y Rufino Tamayo, 1995, p. 63 (illustrated in color).
    O. Paz and J. Lassaigne, Rufino Tamayo, Barcelona, Ediciones Polígrafa, S.A., 1995, p. 106, no. 59 (illustrated in color).
    K. Steinmetz, "El nexo entre América Latina y el resto del mundo", ArtNexus, October- December 1996, no. 22, p. 104-106.
    T. del Conde et al., Tamayo, Grupo Financiero Bital Fundación Olga y Rufino Tamayo A.C., Américo Arte Editores, Mexico City, 1998, p. 161-162, p. 248 (illustrated in color).


    Exhibited

    Seattle, Fine Art Pavillion, Seattle's World Fair, April- October 1962.
    Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, Tamayo, March 1968, no. 72.
    Paris, Museée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Tamayo: Peintures 1960-1974, November 27th, 1974- February 2nd, 1975, no. 6. This exhibition also traveled to Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, March- April 1975, no. 3.
    Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art, Rufino Tamayo, April- May 1976, no. 8.
    New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Rufino Tamayo: Myth and Magic, May- August 1979, no. 67.
    Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, The Nuclear Age: Tradition and Transition, 1983.