In a long conversation with the Catalonian journalist Victor Alba, later published in book form as Coloquios de Coyoacán con Rufino Tamayo (1), Rufino Tamayo made the following comment: "Are we to assume that a still life by Cezanne is somehow less worthy than a painting by Delacroix, with its complex subject? What gives value to a work of art is not its subject matter, no matter what the demagogues may tell us. Rather, it is its technical language and its accommodation to the historical circumstances. Fluency in the artistic idiom chosen is not enough; the form of expression must be suited to the needs of the moment of creation; it must be up-to-date." This still life asserts Tamayo's dictum; indeed it is a masterpiece of the genre, unique within the artist's oeuvre.
With its refined use of transparent colors and its skillful execution, this still life displays many of Tamayo's innovations with which he infused his modern still life. Shown only once in the New York's Knoedler Gallery, January 1939, the work was acquired for a European collection where it remained for years. Although Tamayo adopted some of Adolfo Best Maugard's 1921 drawing methods which had been the standard for generations of Mexican school students, the artist's visual eloquence is clearly manifested in this brilliant spectacle of color.
Tamayo's elegant composition is enhanced by its appealing playful quality. The dessert glass from which the painting derives its name, takes on a sculptural quality against a set of theatrical curtains. The stillness of the scene is ruptured by a pair of fluttering butterflies around the dessert glass while the diagonals created by the knife and the cake cutter make the image dynamic and vibrant. As well, the background's iridescent quality creates a rather pleasing visual balance. The light that emanates from the glass, bathes the entire scene in a tenuous glow and mysterious touch.
Juan Carlos Pereda
Mexico City, 2006
(1) Victor Alba, Coloquios de Coyoacán don Rufino Tamayo, Costa Amic Editor, Colección Panoramas, Mexico, 1956.