Lot 21
  • 21

Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)

750,000 - 1,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Rufino Tamayo
  • Tres Personajes
  • signed and dated O-70 upper right; also titled on the reverse
  • 38 1/8 by 51 1/4 in.
  • (96.8 by 130.2 cm)
oil and sand on canvas


Perls Galleries, New York (1970)
Steven Jacobsen, New York
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Important Impressionist and Modern Paintings and Sculpture, May 11, 1977, lot 92, illustrated in color


El Salvador, Galería Nacional de Arte/Ministerio de Educación, Tamayo expone en El Salvador, November 19-December 3, 1970, no. 17
Mexico City, Galería Misrachi, Pintura Reciente de Rufino Tamayo, February, 1971, no. 8
New York, Perls Galleries, Rufino Tamayo Oil Paintings 1970-1971, November 9-December 11, 1971, no 2, illustrated on frontispiece
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Cent oeuvres de Tamayo: Peintures 1960-1974, November 27, 1974-February 2, 1975, no. 49
Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, Rufino Tamayo, March 1-April 30, 1975, p. 82, no. 44, illustrated



Emily Genauer, Rufino Tamayo, New York, Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1974, no. 112, illustrated in color (also illustrated on the cover)
Octavio Paz and Jacques Lassaigne, Rufino Tamayo, New York, Rizzoli, 1982, p. 169, no. 131, illustrated in color
José Corredor-Matheos, Tamayo, New York, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1987, no. 82, illustrated in color
Rufino Tamayo 70 años de creación (exhibition catalogue), Mexico City, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Internacional Rufino Tamayo and Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, 1987-1988, illustrated in color
Damián Bayón, Hacia Tamayo, Mexico D.F., Fundación Olga y Rufino Tamayo, 1995, p. 78, n.n., illustrated in color
Octavio Paz and Jacques Lassaigne, Rufino Tamayo, Barcelona, Ediciones Polígrafa, S.A., 1995, p. 171, no. 131, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

How can I define my attitude to Tamayo's work? It is a thing of gyration and gravitation; it attracts me and at the same time keeps me at a distance, like a sun. I might also say that it generates a sort of visual appetite: I see his painting as if it were a fruit, incandescent and untouchable. But there is another, more exact word: fascination. The picture is there in front of me, hanging on a wall. I look at it and little by little, in slow but inexorable stages, it becomes an opening fan of sensations, a vibration of colours and shapes in an ever-widening series of ripples: a space that is alive, a space that is happy to be space.

--Octavio Paz

At times, Rufino Tamayo's paintings speak to us in one fell swoop, much like a revelation, without words but with great eloquence—one of the key reasons he is considered one of the major colorists of the twentieth century.

Tres personajes is one of those works in which Tamayo's skill and maturity as a colorist is expressed with great virtue—a powerful contrast between opposite colors, the exploration of color to create a delicate gamut of opulent tonalities, and a completely harmonious relationship between colors and forms to achieve a truly masterful work.


In addition to its spectacular use of color, Tres personajes also demonstrates Tamayo's particular approach to synthesizing the human form. Each figure possesses a distinct and unmistakable morphology. Mechanized and synthesized at their maximum, these three personages have not lost their impressive presence. Perhaps more than identifying the figures—a real feat of visual dexterity—as they are barely visible among the colorful atmospheric layers, what is truly surprising is the complexity and sophistication of their fantastic robotic bodies which appear to be lit from within, some with flickering lights, others with lymphatic and nervous systems that emit stunning luminosities.


This is also a work in which Tamayo explores textures—some realized through the use of fine particles of sand and others through the process of scraping layers of fresh paint. The resulting arabesques and incisions posses a great level of expressivity and are an artistic technique Tamayo honed since the 1950s imbuing his work with a sense of eloquence and contemporary beauty.


Tres personajes is a truly emblematic work from the 1970s, a decade in which Tamayo forged a more powerful link between his bold fantasies about science and art. Although this subject matter typically carried a cautionary message about the use and abuse of technology, Tamayo believed that through the artist's humanism recent scientific developments could be transformed to reflect beauty, harmony and modernity.


Juan Carlos Pereda