Magnificent in size and extraordinarily efficient in its use of compositional elements, Naturaleza muerta was painted during a period of intense artistic evolution. Tamayo's superb synthetic abilities--a stylistic characteristic that would continue throughout his long and fruitful career--appears evident in his appropriation of select European movements ranging from Surrealism to Cubism to Mexican folk art. As an early masterpiece, Naturaleza muerta embodies a decade in which artworks "reflect more explicitly on art-making of the period; they begin a conceptual dialogue with other artists and particularly with the Muralism and political art at the time." As a result, Tamayo's works from the 1930s can also be read as "metapaintings, hermetic to their specific references to the art world, as opposed to general issues of visual or material culture, and conceptual rather than poetic in its communicative intentions and signification." 
Here painted again are Tamayo's succulent watermelons, evocative symbols of Mexicanness today so soundly associated with his painting. Brightly colored and strategically arranged at both ends of a long wooden table, they frame our perceptual field from back to front and back again, directing our attention to a translucent liquour bottle at the center of the composition. Labeled Mexico, it serves as one of the main axis of the painting; the other one placed directly behind it. It is on this second bottle that Tamayo's partial signature and dated reference appear indistinctly painted--a playful afterthought by the artist. A diagonal fish, juxtaposed across the surface of the table, seems to cut the composition in two. On the right, a serene classical still life reveals two watermelon slices anchored by a few Cezannesque apples.
In the foreground, eight thinly painted rails serve a dual purpose: to enclose the picture plane onto itself and to deflect our attention to the grid pattern barely noticeable along the grey background. Deceptively decorative, these rails are reminiscent of those later employed by the artist in Nueva York desde la terraza of 1937 where they delineate the border and extreme corner of the terrace. Once again, Tamayo’s pictorial language proves highly efficient in its use of formal elements.
Unlike the right half, the left side of the composition appears conveniently accessible. Dark grapes, a coffee pot, a third watermelon slice and a white kitchen cloth balance each other with internal cohesion. While firmly painted on their support, a metaphysical quality reveals itself in the floating wooden table, a moment of magic realism in an otherwise classical rendition of a still-life.
 Karen Cordero Reiman, "Appropriation, Invention, and Irony, Tamayo's Early Period, 1920-1937," Tamayo; A Modern Icon Reinterpreted, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 2007, p. 180
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