Rufino Tamayo’s mastery of color and prodigious innovations in form and composition are clearly evidenced in Niña atleta
. A dynamic example of the artist’s mature style, Niña atleta
is exquisitely painted in oscillating shades of violet and green, enrobed in a halo of magenta and earth-red tones that seem to lift her out of the picture plane and into our world. Tamayo’s glowing hues create a sense of optimism and jubilation that are infectious; her mask-like face gives her an aura of mystery and universality, rendering her a joyful and eternal icon of youth. The artist frequently revisited this theme of blissful childhood in his later years, perhaps in a nostalgic reminiscence on his early career as a teacher. The visual economy of Niña atleta
, which is comprised entirely of simple, elemental squares, circles, and triangles, both hearkens back to the geometric foundations Tamayo passed on to his students and signifies “the essence of Tamayo’s strived-after universality…which can be traced back to his early (and continued) fascination with pre-hispanic art. The Maya, Azctecs and other indigenous peoples of Mexico were geniuses at expressing the essential qualities of a human figure…with a few lines.” (1) Tamayo masterfully combines pre-Columbian aesthetic sensitivities with a modernist treatment of texture and color to monumentalize his youthful heroine.
1: Edward Sullivan, “Paths of Light: The Art of Rufino Tamayo” in Tamayo: Recent Paintings, New York 1990, p. 9