Lot 38
  • 38

Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)

600,000 - 800,000 USD
713,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Rufino Tamayo
  • Hombre perseguido
  • signed and dated O-56 upper right
  • oil and mixed media on masonite


Knoedler and Co., New York
Sale: Christie's, New York, Important 19th and 20th Century Latin American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, May 5, 1981, lot 37, illustrated in color
Lee Ault, New Canaan
Galerias Iturbide, Mexico City
Sale: Christie's, New York, Important Latin American Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, and Prints, November 16, 1994, lot 16, illustrated in color


New York, Knoedler and Co., Rufino Tamayo-Recent Works, October 30-November 17, 1956, no. 19


Octavio Paz, Tamayo en la pintura mexicana, Mexico, 1959, no. 95, illustrated
Juan García Ponce, Tamayo, Mexico City, 1967, illustrated
Ramón Gutiérrez and Rodrigo Gutiérrez Viñuales, Historia del Arte Latinoamericano, Barcelona, 2000, p. 304, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

The 1950s were years of glory for Rufino Tamayo. After representing Mexico in the 1950 Venice Biennial, his success as a painter, both in his native Mexico and abroad was in constant ascent. Also, long gone were the years of his early career when he was attacked by his communist contemporaries Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco and their cohort of followers in the press for “not being Mexican enough.” In those days of revolutionary fervor, Mexican-ness (mexicanidad) was a political thermometer which artists needed to monitor regularly in order to ensure that their work contributed to the agenda of the Institutional Revolutionary Party which had ruled since the early 1920s. Octavio Paz so rightly said in an essay about Tamayo, whom he admired profoundly, “No work is defined by the nationality of his author: to say that Cervantes was Spanish or Racine was French says little or nothing about Cervantes and Racine.” 1

A few years before painting Hombre Perseguido (The Hunted Man) in 1956, Tamayo was still strongly defending the subject matter of his painting and his innovative painting techniques. While men, women and children in different activities were the principal topic of his carefully crafted compositions, the color and rich matter of his paintings became a field of open metaphors and vast visual pleasure. In an interview with Juan B. Climent in 1951, Tamayo said, "I am against political painting although I believe that certain important things can be done and have been done in that field. However, I demand [from others] something I consider basic: let’s not forget about the [intrinsic] quality of the painting.” 2

Although his professional career was at its height and the comments about the nature of his art were less virulent, it is possible to give an interpretation to this painting in the context of that endless and sometimes sterile confrontation. What do we see in Hunted Man? We see the geometric figure of a man running towards us with open arms, emerging from an informal, dark reddish and purple background. His right foot, the closer element to the viewer, is struck by light. The man is being chased by a small muzzled creature with broad white eyes lurking in the back. The running man seems to be dressed with metallic protective armor. He bears a paint brush in his left hand and a palette in the shape of a fan in his right hand. Instead of exuding anguish, the chase has left an ironic flat smile on his face, as if nothing particularly stressful is happening at all. As in many other paintings by Tamayo, we believe that the artist is making an ironic statement: it is as if the figure were a self-representation of Tamayo happily escaping from the shades of a suffocating artistic environment, harassed by a harmless little monster—perhaps a metaphor for the group of political painters—finally reaching the light and freedom, with the right foot. 

1 In “Tres ensayos sobre Rufino Tamayo,” Los privilegios de la vista II: arte de México, México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1995, p. 283.

2 In “¡Tamayo se rebela!: Rufino Tamayo, ‘Cuarto grande’ de la pintura mexicana se subleva en un vibrante mensaje artístico,” Mañana: La revista de México, No. 411, July 14, 1951, p. 49.