Rufino Tamayo (1899 - 1991)

Figura prehispánica III. Mujer, cultura Olmeca (1976)
Prehispanic Figure III. Woman. Olmec Culture

Lithograph on paper
height: 56cm
width: 45.5cm

Donated by the Fundación Olga y Rufino Tamayo 1997


Between 1921 and 1923 Tamayo worked at the National Archaeological Museum in Mexico City, where one of his duties was to sketch the Prehispanic collection. Tamayo would later state that this experience had a formative influence on his art, and the Figuras Prehispánicas series draws from this life-long inspiration. The figure in Mujer Olmeca is one of two lithographs in the series to be based on figurines from the Olmec culture of the Gulf Coast region, the other being Bebé. The piece is typical of the art from this area. The woman, nude except for a patterned headdress and ornamental ear pieces, sits with her legs spread out, one hand on her knee and the other lifted and cupped as if to carry something. The woman's mouth is wide open and her eyes are crossed, a common feature in Olmec figures possibly expressing divinity or perhaps simply an aesthetic preference in physical beauty. Mujer Olmeca is one of the most straightforwardly figurative lithographs in the series, and reflects the fact that by the time this work was executed, Tamayo had spent more than fifty years studying and sketching Prehispanic art.

Terri Geis, 2008

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