Born in Oaxaca (Mexico) into a family of Zapotecan Indian origin, Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) is one of the most renowned Mexican artists of the 20th century.
Despite opposition from his family, his precocious calling took him at an early age to Mexico City, where he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. There he discovered with fascination the mysteries and diversity of pre-Columbian art, which was to inspire all his work. Unable to share the revolutionary fervour then obligatory among his “muralist” colleagues, he left Mexico in 1926 for New York, a city to which he returned ten years later, settling there for a lengthy period.
From then on his career, punctuated by numerous one-man exhibitions in both countries, was divided between Mexico and the United States, where he taught first at the Dalton School, then at the Brooklyn Museum. His fame acquired a global dimension, in particular through his participation in the Venice Biennale in 1950 and Documenta II in Kassel in 1959. Exhibitions of his work were held in 1952 and 1974 at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, where he also painted a mural for the UNESCO building. A succession of tributes, prizes and awards between the 1960s and the 1980s acknowledged Tamayo to be one of the most important painters of our time.
Also a patron of the arts, in 1974 he donated a number of pre-Columbian artefacts to his home town of Oaxaca. Likewise, he offered the Mexican people an outstanding collection of contemporary art, including an eclectic choice of his own works, which led to the creation of the Rufino Tamayo International Museum in Mexico City in 1981.
Tamayo’s painting, with its abundant richness of colour, ranging from pastel shades to the most flamboyant red, combines almost naive elementary forms with an often aggressive expressionism. It also displays a radiant inner energy in which Octavio Paz sees a “constellation of forces”. In his works, disturbing, even hallucinatory creatures seem to emanate at once from an immemorial tradition and from the artist’s unconscious.
In 1990, Tamayo agreed to create an original work of art for the Mouton Rothschild label. Fate decreed otherwise, but his family wanted the master’s wish to be fulfilled. So to illustrate the 1998 vintage they have given us this “Brindis”, a man proposing a toast : a commonplace ritual that Tamayo transforms, under a glowing sun, into a striking allegory of raw desire.