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

Tres personajes en un interior

Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)
Tres personajes en un interior
signed and dated 'Tamayo, O-70' (upper right) and titled 'TRES PERSONAJES EN UN INTERIOR' (on the reverse)
oil and sand on canvas
32.¼ x 39.½ in. (81.9 x 100.3 cm.)
Painted in 1970.
Private collection, New York.
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 20 November 2012, lot 50.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

Lot Essay

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

Rufino Tamayo’s enduring preoccupation with the human condition was amply manifested throughout his life in a dazzling production of extraordinary works such as his earliest explorations of diverse forms of modernism reflected in his oeuvre dating from the 1920s and 30s; his masterful compositions in abstract figuration of the 1940s and 50s that gained him international acclaim; and his mature works, such as the exquisite Tres personajes en un interior, a semi-abstract composition in which subtle variants of purples, mauves and lavender create a lyrical space. Tamayo’s aesthetic, although influenced by the School of Paris, was deeply rooted in his ancient Mexican culture and history. “Humor, irony, drama--are constants in Tamayo’s work,” scholar and art critic Jorge Alberto Manrique notably expressed. (1) Indeed, Tamayo’s decades-long artistic journey engaged with the epic humanistic themes that are movingly transcendental, ultimately universal, and always constant.

In reviewing the exhibition, La obra de Rufino Tamayo (1956-1964) at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, the art critic, poet and philosopher Ramón Xirau refers to the significance and indeed meaning of a great work of art.(2) He finds himself in front of an object that speaks for itself, that is, the artist has given it a voice. He further implies that is empowered to communicate with its viewer imparting so much about itself and its creation. Tamayo’s paintings eloquently reveal his prowess as an artist always. His technique involving a complex mix of oils, turpentine, and sand bestow his works with material substance; while his colors—at times blinding, radiant, or as in the present lot, delicate and restrained, but always conduits of meaning, speak of the human condition.

His paintings from the 1970s onward are poignant expressions of his most intimate beliefs, especially after witnessing the century’s most devastating war. They are visual affirmations of life, and the triumph of the human spirit. Like many of his contemporaries, Tamayo embarked on a persistent exploration of light and abstraction, not as a mere exercise in developing a new pictorial art but as a way with which to transfigure his forms. Through color, his forms could gain a voice and transmit feeling. Tamayo’s masterly application of color in Tres personajes en un interior, imbues his work with such ineffable intensity. The artist never disowned his figures or forms, preferring them to look back at us. Through them, perhaps our past could be explained, future revealed, and our collective existence shared.

1) Rufino Tamayo: 70 años de creación, exhibition catalogue, (Mexico City: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Internacional and Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, 1987-1988), 40. Author’s translation from Spanish Tamayo.

2) R. Xirau, Diálogos: Artes, Letras, Ciencias humanas, Vol. 1, No. 1, Mexico: El Colegio de México, (NOVIEMBRE-DICIEMBRE 1964), 27. The exhibition opened in September 1964.

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