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Rufino Tamayo was a Mexican painter of Zapotec descent. He was born in Oaxaca but following the death of his parents in 1911, went to live with his aunt in Mexico City. He studied at the Escuela des Artes Plasticas, and in 1921 was appointed head of the Department of Ethnographic Drawing at the Archaeological Museum, which introduced him to folk art. In 1936 48, he was based in New York, and after the exhibition which marked his return to Mexico (at the Pallacio des Bellas Artes, 1948) was bitterly attacked by the muralists for its disavowal of popular and accessible forms, he moved to Paris. He finally returned to Mexico City in 1964, donating his collection of Pre Columbian art to Oaxaca to form the Museo de Arte Prehispanico de Mexico Rufino Tamayo. In 1981 his collection of modern art opened to the public at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Internacional Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City.
Tamayo was an outsider in post Revolutionary Mexico, politically neutral and opposing the muralists' commitment to a public, popular art. His own paintings draw on Mexican folk art and ceramics for their themes and in their rich use of colour and texture, but their sophisticated compositions are more closely indebted to Cubism. In the 1930s he painted tropical fruits, perhaps influenced by his experiences as a child working for his aunt's wholesale fruit business. Later his imagery became more grotesque, dominated by animals. From the mid 1940s onwards, he moved towards abstraction and placed greater emphasis on his use of strong colours.
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