Rufino Tamayo (Mexican 1899-1991)
Rufino Tamayo (Mexican 1899-1991)

Danza al sol

Rufino Tamayo (Mexican 1899-1991)
Danza al sol
signed and dated 'Tamayo, O-48' (lower right)
oil and sand on canvas
40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1948.
M. Knoedler and Co., Inc., New York.
Private collection, Chicago.
Anderson Gallery, Buffalo, New York.
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 20 November 1995, lot 24 (illustrated in color).
Acquired from the above.
Exhibition catalogue, Tamayo: 20 años de su labor pictórica, Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Nacional de Artes Plásticas, 1948, no. 58 (illustrated).
E.F. Gual, Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, Editorial Eugenio Fischgrund, 1950 (illustrated in color).
L. Cardoza y Aragón, Pintura Mexicana Contemporánea, Mexico City, Imprenta Universitaria, 1953, no. 16 (illustrated).
P. Westheim, 'El Arte de Tamayo: Una Investigación Estética,' in Artes de México, Investigación Estética, Mexico City, Vol. 12, May- June 1956 (illustrated).
M. Nelken, 'Ensayo de exégesis de Rufino Tamayo' in Cuadernos américanos año XIV, No. 6, Mexico City, November- December 1956 (illustrated).
P. Westheim, 'Tamayo' in Ediciones Artes de México, Mexico City, 1957 (illustrated).
Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Nacional de Artes Plásticas, Tamayo: 20 Años de su Labor Pictórica, June- September 1948, no. 58.
Dallas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts organized by Galería Mont-Orendain, Mexico City, Three Contemporary Mexican Painters: David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo, 9 October- 7 November 1948, no. 18.
New York, M. Knoedler and Co., Inc. Gallery, Tamayo, April- May, 1950, no. 6.
London, Tate Gallery, Mexican Art From Pre-Columbian Times to the Present Day, 4 March- 26 April 1953, no. 1056.
Sale room notice

Lot Essay

The year 1948 witnessed important milestones in Tamayo's career, marking his ascension within Mexico's artistic pantheon and affirming the universalism of a creative vision that stretched from the ancient Americas to postwar Europe. In June, the first major retrospective of Tamayo's work in Mexico opened at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, firmly grounding his work within the national canon. Installed next to a gallery of pre-Columbian sculpture, popular ceramics and photography, the exhibition suggested correspondences between Tamayo's imagery and indigenous sources, clearly aligning his work within a continuum of Mexican art alongside that of "Los Tres Grandes," Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. As he became more and more integrated within the national patrimony, Tamayo also began to establish himself within international circles, traveling to Europe for the first time in the summer of 1948 and positioning himself professionally in Paris and, as through much of his earlier career, in New York.

Between 1948 and 1950, Tamayo made a small number of paintings that exuberantly celebrate the joy of life and the harmony of man and nature, drawing away from the cataclysmic imagery of the wartime years and anticipating the cosmic paintings of the decade to come. In works such as the present Danza al sol and the related Danza de la alegría (1950), Tamayo features an ecstatic female figure, limbs outspread in a dance of arcadian delight as her body becomes metaphorically one with the native landscape. Images such as these of an eternal, earthly paradise resonated with contemporary ruminations on the future of man and the nature of human civilization. Indeed, as curator Diana C. Du Pont has noted:
If Tamayo drew inspiration from pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures while the Abstract Expressionists discovered meaning in North American Indian cultures, they both found in these ancient sources new ways of grappling with he sublime and humanist concerns that preoccupied artists in the postwar and Cold War years.(1)

Tamayo plumbed existential themes throughout his career, yet in Danza al sol he largely tempered the somber introspection and alienation that elsewhere characterized his canvases, offering in its place an expression of sheer euphoria and universal harmony. Here, Tamayo's dancers are suspended against the radiant, red-orange shadows of the sun, their bodies channeling the energies of the cosmos through the very ends of their fingertips. They become the symbolic links between the cosmic movement of the heavens and the physical reality of the Mexican landscape, imaged here through the iconic mountains and ubiquitous cactus. "There is no reason to view the cosmos only as something which is outside the Earth," José Correor-Matheos has observed, and preeminently "in Tamayo's painting the monumentality of the human figure gives man greatness in his relationship with the cosmos."(2) Tamayo's vital universalism ultimately stems from this consonance between man and nature: the essential figures, schematically reduced within a tonal range of azure and midnight blue, are literally embodied within the landscape, the brilliant protagonists of a brave new world.

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park.

1) D. C. Du Pont, "'Realistic, Never Figurative': Tamayo and the Art of Abstract Figuration," in Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 2007, 75.
2) J. Corredor-Matheos, Tamayo, New York, Rizzoli, 1987, 24.

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