Tamayo's career was most successfully launched in 1929 with his exhibition at the Galera de Arte Moderno in Mexico City. During the 1930's, Tamayo further developed and created a personalized palette truer to the exaltation of his Mexican heritage. Between 1926 and 1938 he painted a great number of oil and gouache works revealing a freer more lyrical inspiration that also responded to his interest in Mexican themes and myths.
El circo is comparable in form and style to the artist's Naturaleza muerta con helado, also from 1938. Both pieces play with a limited palette of variegated browns along with hints of blue and white. In El circo, these are brushed onto the canvas thinly and smoothly, appearing to sink into the canvas in a fresco-like manner. This method of painting renders the surface with a special quality of depth that is further reinforced by the colors rarely used in full intensity.