Lot 11
  • 11

Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)

1,200,000 - 1,600,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Rufino Tamayo
  • Personaje en un interior
  • signed and dated O-88 lower right; also signed, titled, dated and dedicated on the reverse
  • oil on canvas 
  • 37 5/8 by 51 1/8 in.
  • 96 by 130 cm


Acquired from the artist
Private Collection, Mexico
Thence by descent to the present owner 


Moscow, Gallery of the Union of Painters of the USSR, August 29-October 1, 1989; Oslo, Edvard Munch Museet, October 26, 1989-January 21, 1990; St. Petersburg, The Hermitage, February 15-March 15, 1990; Rufino Tamayo: Paintings, Drawings and Graphic Work, 1925-1989, no. 81, p. 118, illustrated in color 
Berlin, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Rufino Tamayo, 1990, May 2 - June 10, 1990, no. 150, p. 253, illustrated in color
New York, Marlborough Gallery, Tamayo: Recent Paintings, September 26-October 16, 1990, no. 25, p. 55, illustrated in color 
Mexico City, Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Tamayo Trayectos, August 24, 2012 - April 16, 2013, p. 174, illustrated in color 


Octavio Paz and Jacques Lassaigne, Rufino Tamayo, Barcelona, 1995, no. 277, p. 300, illustrated 

Catalogue Note

“Tamayo is a painter of painting, not of the metaphysics or criticism of painting. He is the absolute opposite of such a painter as Mondrian or, to speak of one of his contemporaries, Barnett Newman. He is more akin to painters like Braque or Bonnard. Reality for Tamayo is corporal, visual. Yes, the world exists: we are told so by his reds and purples, the iridescence of his greys, the smudginess of charcoal.” --Octavio Paz in Octavio Paz and Jacques Lassaigne, Rufino Tamayo, 1995, p. 22.

Personaje en un interior (1988) affirms Rufino Tamayo’s mastery of color. Painted in the late 1980s—an innovative and highly prolific decade—the work reveals an extraordinary virtuosity in the treatment of color and texture. Tamayo’s canvases from this period inspire poignant emotions, exhilarating sensations, and indescribable moods. Having developed an idiosyncratic painting technique early on in his career, his application of paint remained technical and systematic throughout eight uninterrupted decades of artistis production. As a direct means for expressing universal themes, the medium retained preeminence against ever changing narratives and stylistic evolutions. "The whiteness of the canvas bothers me,” he once stated. “The first thing I do when beginning a painting is generally to lay down a coat of grey. Superimposing other colors on the grey leads me to changes of tones that enrich the surface.” (1)   

Tamayo achieved the most elusive color variations by the application of superimposed layers of subtle halftone glazes. These expressive textures, however, employed by the painter since the forties— whose use was strengthened in Paris where he met Jean Dubuffet—are further enhanced by his own experiments with coarse materials ingeniously produced by mixing fresh pigment with sand. A luscious palette of opulent Oaxacan colors impregnates the atmosphere of the composition with saturated pinks, magentas, crimson and plums that when viewed together create a dramatic contrast against the restrained grays of the sole schematic figure.

Occupying almost the entire height of the painting, this personage confronts the viewer with an archaic pose reminiscent of Pre-Columbian figurines. Located within the confines of an intimate interior, his arms direct our attention to the modest flower vase placed on the table. Unpretentious in their presentation, colorful Cempasúchils—also often referred to in Mexico as flor de muerto because they figure prominently in Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations—welcome the viewer into this private space. The warm, sensual and domestic atmosphere of the interior further contrasts with the cooler landscape partially seen through the appearance of a window--or is it a painted landscape perfectly framed within the picture plane? Outside the indispensable moon, a well-known plastic symbol of eroticism associated with all that is pleasurable, reverberates in the background.  

Another example of Tamayo’s penchant for intimate familial scenes is El fisgón, an exquisite painting of 1988 also sold in these rooms in 2016 (fig.1). While conveying a more "indiscreet" setting, both works excel in their treatment of schematic shapes and the use of color to express emotion. Tamayo’s relentless appreciation for every day experiences makes this painting a classic example of Mexican modernism.  

(1) Raquel Tibol, “Rufino Tamayo and His Painting,” in Tamayo, Marlborough Gallery, New York, 1990, p. 4