Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION
Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)

Dos amantes contemplando la luna

Details
Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)
Dos amantes contemplando la luna
signed and dated 'TAMAYO 0-50' lower right
oil on canvas
31 7/8 x 39 1/3in. (81 x 100 cm.)
Painted in 1950.
Provenance
Knoedler Gallery, New York.
George R. Fearing, Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Bernard Lewin Collection, Palm Springs, California.
Latin American Masters, Los Angeles, California.
Private collection, Mexico.
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 21 November 2000, lot 12.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
C. Raimont, Rufino Tamayo Collection Artist de Ce Temps, Paris, 1951, no. 4 (illustrated).
P. Westheim, Tamayo una investigación estética, Mexico City, Ediciones Artes de México, 1957 (illustrated in color).
J. Goméz Sicre, Four Artists of the Americas: Burle-Marx, Calder, Peláez, Tamayo, Washington D.C., Pan American Union, 1957, p. 83 (illustrated).
O. Paz, "Tamayo en la pintura mexicana colección de arte," Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Dirección General de Publicaciones, 1959, p. 59, no. 64 (illustrated).
T. del Conde et al., Tamayo, Mexico City, Américo Arte Editores S.A. de C.V., 1998, p. 64, (illustrated in color).
A. Graham-Dixon, The Art Definitive Visual Guide, London, Editorial Consultant, 2008, p. 498 (illustrated in color).
L.I. Sainz, "Los rasgos plásticos de Rufino Tamayo," Casa del tiempo, vol. 1, época III, no. 11-12, December 1999 - January 2000, p. 68 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie des Beaux Arts, Tamayo, 8 November - 9 December 1950, no. 10. This exhibition also traveled to Brussels, Palais des Beaux – Arts, 22 December 1950 - 7 January 1951.
San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Rufino Tamayo Paintings, 10 May - 10 June 1951, no. 16.
New York, Knoedler & Co. Gallery, Tamayo Recent Works, 19 November - 15 December 1951, no. 4.
Fort Worth, Texas, Fort Worth Art Museum, Tamayo, 7 January - 2 February 1951, no. 17.
Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago, Tamayo, 4 - 28 April 1952, no. 5.
Washington D.C., Pan American Union, Tamayo, 14 October - 15 November 1952, no. 23.
São Paulo, 2nd Biennial São Paulo Brazil, Rufino Tamayo, December 1953 - February 1954, p. 252, no. 17.
Mexico City, 2nd Inter-American Biennial de México, 50 obras de Tamayo, 1960, n.p., n. 29 (illustrated)
Phoenix, Arizona, Phoenix Art Museum , Rufino Tamayo, March 1968, no. 50.
Santa Barbara, California, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The Art of Modern Mexico, August - October 1970, no. 61.
San Antonio, Texas, San Antonio Museum of Art, Tamayo, December 1985 - January 1986. This exhibition also traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, Museo de Monterrey, January - March 1986.
Santa Ana, California, Museum of Modern Art, Rufino Tamayo, 19 September - 30 November 1987, p. 24, no. 13.
B. Lewin, Rufino Tamayo, B. Lewin Galleries, Beverly Hills, p. 47B, n.n. (illustrated in color)
Post lot text
1 “El realismo poético: Reciente escuela pictórica nacida en México que aceptan gustosos en París." Visión (December 26, 1950): 30. My translation. Available through the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art. https://icaadocs.mfah.org/s/en/page/home. Accessed June 15, 2020.
2 My translation. These articles can be individually searched through the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art. https://icaadocs.mfah.org/s/en/page/home. They are discussed together in Teresa Del Conde, Tamayo (Mexico City: Grupo Financiero Bital,1998), 107.
3 Victor Alba, “Tamayo habla a Hoy desde Paris! Respaldado por su tiunfo en Europa habla con olímpico desprecio de Diego Rivera y Siqueiros,” Hoy 723(December 30, 1950): 24-25. My translation. Available through the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art. https://icaadocs.mfah.org/s/en/page/home. Accessed June 1, 2020.
4 Juan B. Climent, “¡Tamayo se rebela!”Mañana: La revista de México 411(July 14, 1951): 49. My translation. Available through the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art. https://icaadocs.mfah.org/s/en/page/home. Accessed June 10, 2020.
5 Rufino Tamayo, “¿Cuál es la pintura revolucionaria?” Mañana, 642(December 17, 1955): 49. My translation. Available through the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art. https://icaadocs.mfah.org/s/en/page/home. Accessed June 15, 2020.
6 See James Oles, “Chapter 9 IV. International Horizons,” in Art and Architecture in Mexico, (London: Thames & Hudson, 2013), 340-349.
7 Rosa Castro, “Rufino Tamayo: Ha influido Europa en su arte?” in Excélsior (June 17, 1951):7. My translation. Available through the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art. https://icaadocs.mfah.org/s/en/page/home. Accessed June 18, 2020.
8 Rosa Castro, “Rufino Tamayo: Ha influido Europa en su arte?”
9 See Ingrid Suckaer, “Chronology,” in Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted (Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 2007), 421.
10 Working bibliography and exhibition history on the painting Dos amantes contemplando la luna provided by Juan Carlos Pereda to Christie’s, and shared with author, June 29, 2020.
11 This text is reproduced in “Pequeña antología,” in Tamayo: 70 años de creación (Mexico City: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 1987), 92-99.
12 See Rufino Tamayo, “Gangsterismo en la pintura mexicana,” Excélsior (November 14, 1950). Available through the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art. https://icaadocs.mfah.org/s/en/page/home. Accessed June 20, 2020.

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Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza

Lot Essay

We are grateful to art historian Juan Carlos Pereda for his assistance cataloguing this work.

There currently exist two opposed tendencies in Mexican art. One is social realism and the other is poetic realism, to which I pertain. I do not trust a strictly national attitude…I lean towards universality, which undoubtedly isolates me in some way from Mexicans and is at the root of an increasingly heated controversy. –Rufino Tamayo, 19501
A public display of acrimony between Rufino Tamayo and the “Three Greats” (Mexican muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco) played out in Mexico City’s local newspaper El Nacional in the fall of 1947 upon Tamayo’s return to Mexico following more than a decade of his self-exile in New York City as headlines read: “Mexican Painting is in a State of Decadence Says Tamayo, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros in Decline”; “Orozco Doesn’t Change, Investigate, He Always Repeats Himself: Tamayo is Ready to Defend Himself and the Controversy Continues its Course”; “I Am Not a Copyist Says Tamayo”; and “Tamayo is a Bombastic Sufficiency Says Siqueiros: Mexican Painting is Not Sick or Decadent.”2 Three years later, in 1950, the very year that Tamayo painted Dos amantes contemplando la luna, the debate continued as these four artists were selected to represent Mexico in the country’s first time ever invitation to participate in the Venice Biennial.
At the Mexican Pavilion, 16 of Tamayo’s paintings hung in a room dedicated solely to his work. His loss of a Biennial award to his anathema Siqueiros only propelled Tamayo to further advocate for an opening in Mexican art; Tamayo called for a movement away from a closed, nationalist, social realist, political, picturesque and folkloric art of epic scale as he envisioned Mexican art expanding in stylistic diversity. “Mexico’s art is not uniform, limited to a single modality, rather, it is multifaceted, diverse,” he argued.3 Summarizing his position he stated:
I believe that we should contribute with the Mexican experience to this universal current. The fundamental point is that we are part of everything, not an independent island. We know very well that the School of Paris was formed in large part by foreigners, that it is universal and not Parisian…That understood, the roots of my painting are Mexican, but my plastic language is universal.4
Repeatedly Tamayo insisted that Mexican art needed to grow beyond Siqueiros’ infamous 1944 claim in defense of politicized muralism, “No hay más ruta que la nuestra (There is no other path but ours).” For Tamayo, truly revolutionary art was one open to experimentation, a rebellious one, dissatisfied, produced by artists both courageous in making mistakes and finding solutions, and not formulaic.5
This long-running dispute was not simply a theoretical one; as art historian James Oles points out, at mid-century Mexico’s state-run Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes commissioned a large canvas from Olga Costa to be included in an exhibition curated by Fernando Gamboa for Paris’ Musée D’Art Moderne. La vendedora de frutas (The Fruit Seller) presented a costumbrista (genre) painting of a bronze-skinned laborer behind a market fruit stand, a bounty of detailed, lush, Mexican native fruits laid out before her to tempt the viewer’s palate. Painted in the highly naturalistic manner of Hermenegildo Bustos’ 19th Century still lifes, what was representational, narrative, easily recognized as the exotic fruits of the land—not abstraction, not formal concerns—is what was considered representative of “The Mexican School” and official mexicanidad (Mexicanness).6
Tamayo maintained that he expressed his inherent Mexicanness in his painting, but not through legible, iconic subject-matter. He affirmed, “My painting, in addition to being Mexican in spirit and in essence, is international and contemporary.”7 Neither narrative or naturalistic, Dos amantes exemplifies the artist’s self-identified “poetic realism” that he named in the epigraph above, as he painted the everyday, absent of demagoguery. Additionally, an avid guitar player and singer of Mexican ballads, he brought his love of music and sense of rhythm to his paintings, the two lovers’ bodies recalling upright instruments. As a student and collector of pre-Columbian art, Tamayo further charged his abstracted figures with his study and knowledge of sculptural form, notably the thick bodied, short limbed ceramic animal and warrior figurines of Jalisco and Colima in West Mexico. Whereas, in La vendedora Costa meticulously illustrated calabazas, papaya, coco, tunas, cacahuate, jicama, piña, mango, aguacate, platano macho and tobasco, zapote, guanabana, tamarindo, mamey, and more, Tamayo ingested local color and texture, translating experience onto the canvas, sometimes hot and aggressive as with his Niña atacada por un pajaro extraño of 1947, and sometimes, as is the case here with Dos amantes, cool and subdued, while anthropomorphically provocative.
It was in Europe that Tamayo likely painted Dos amantes given that he had left New York in the summer of 1949 setting off on his first trip to Europe, where he would remain for nearly two years visiting England, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Spain, and France, making Paris his home base.8 1950 was a banner year for the artist; in addition to his participation in the XXV Venice Biennial from June 8-October 15, he presented a solo exhibition at the M. Knoedler & Co. Gallery in New York from April to May, with subsequent iterations of the exhibition at the Galerie de Beaux-Arts in Paris in November-December of the same year, and at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels from December 1950 to January 1951.9 Dos amantes was included in the latter two exhibitions as confirmed by Juan Carlos Pereda, Chief Curator at the Tamayo Museum in Mexico City through his committed research.10 It was in the Paris catalogue that Octavio Paz published his groundbreaking essay “Tamayo en la pintura mexicana,” where he acknowledged Tamayo’s role as a “black sheep” who would renovate the arts of Mexico.11 Indeed, Tamayo’s mid-century stance against “gangsterismo” in Mexican art pioneered the way for a younger generation of artists such as José Luis Cuevas, Juan Soriano, and the group Nueva Presencia to rebel against The Mexican School and the “ruta única” bringing about, in the late 1950s and 60s, the Ruptura (Break) in Mexican art.12
Teresa Eckmann, Associate Professor of Contemporary Latin American Art History, University of Texas at San Antonio
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