Lot 25
  • 25

Rufino Tamayo

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  • Rufino Tamayo
  • Perro aullando a la Luna (Dog Howling at the Moon) 
  • Signed Tamayo and dated 42 (lower left) 
  • Oil on canvas
  • 44 1/4 by 33 3/4 in.
  • 112.4 by 85.7 cm
  • Painted in 1944.


Valentine Gallery, New York

Inés Amor, Mexico City

John Huston, Beverly Hills

Evelyn Keyes, Beverly Hills

Frank Perls Gallery, Los Angeles

Peter G. Wray, Scottsdale, Arizona (acquired from the above in 1977)

Otto Atencio, New York

Acquired from the above in 1993


New York, Valentine Gallery, Rufino Tamayo: New Paintings, 1943, no. 8

Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago, Tamayo, 1945, no. 20

Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Nacional de Artes Plásticas, Tamayo: 20 años de su labor pictórica, 1948, no. 32, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Stockholm, Liljevalchs Konsthall & London, Tate Gallery, Mexican Art from Pre-Columbian Times to the Present Day, 1952-53 (in Paris, no. 1065; in Stockholm, no. 1050; in London, no. 1043)

Mexico City, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Exposición inaugural del Museo de Artes Plásticas del INBA, 1953, n.n., p. 68

New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Rufino Tamayo: Myth and Magic, 1979, no. 28, illustrated in color in the catalogue

San Antonio, San Antonio Museum of Art & Monterrey, Museo de Monterrey, Tamayo, 1985-86, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Mexico City, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, Setenta años de creación, 1987-88, no. 76

Madrid, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Rufino Tamayo: Pinturas, 1988, no. 22, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Mexico City, Museo Nacional de Arte Proyecto Ciudad de México, Modernidad y modernización en el arte mexicano, 1920-1960, 1991-92, no. 41, illustrated in the catalogue 

Nagoya, Nagoya City Art Museum; Kamakura, The Museum of Modern Art & Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, Retrospectiva Tamayo, 1993-94, no. 27, illustrated in color on the cover of the catalogue

Monterrey, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Sala México revolución y revelación, 2007-08, no. 49, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Miami, Miami Art Museum & Mexico City, Museo Tamayo de Arte Contemporáneo, Tamayo: A Modern Icon, Reinterpreted, 2007-08, no. 64, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Tamayo: The New York Years, 2017-18, no. 33, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Robert Goldwater, Rufino Tamayo, New York, 1947, no. XLII, illustrated p. 86

Justino Fernández, Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, 1948, discussed p. 15

Justino Fernández, Arte moderno y contemporáneo de México, Mexico City, 1952, no. 472, illustrated p. 410

Paul Westheim, "Ein Mexikanischer Maler: Rufino Tamayo" in Kunst und Volk Art, no. 2, Zurich, 1952, illustrated p. 28

Luis Cardoza y Aragón, Pintura mexicana contemporánea, Mexico City, 1953, no. 17, illustrated n.p. 

Buró Interamericano de Arte, Exposición de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City, 1954, illustrated p. 75 

Paul Westheim, Tamayo: Una investigación estética, Mexico City, 1957, illustrated in color n.p.

Raidar Revold, Rufino Tamayo en Kunsten idag, Oslo, 1957, illustrated p. 43 

Octavio Paz, Tamayo en la Pintura Mexicana, Mexico City, 1959, no. 11, illustrated n.p.

Luis Cardoza y Aragón, México: pintura activa, Mexico City, 1961, illustrated n.p. 

Justino Fernández, La Pintura moderna mexicana, Mexico City, 1964, illustrated n.p.

Eduardo Tamon, "Tamayo, Genio sin demagogia" in Impacto, no. 1159, Mexico City, 1972, illustrated p. 38

Luis Cardoza y Aragón, Pintura contemporánea de México, Mexico City, 1974, illustrated n.p. 

Xavier Moyssén, Los Grandes maestros de la pintura universal, Milan, 1980, discussed p. 135 

Robert Rosenblum, The Dog in Art: From Rococo to Post-Modernism, New York, 1988, no. 46, illustrated in color p. 89 

Maribel Toro Gayol, "Abel Quezada and Rufino Tamayo" in Voices of México: Mexican Perspectives on Contemporary Issues, n.n., Mexico City, 1991, illustrated in color p. 70

Antonio Granados Valdez, Artistas de América, Madrid, 1993, illustrated p. 89 

Ludwig Zeller, "Rufino Tamayo" in Huaxyácac Revista de educación, no. 8, Oaxaca, 1996, illustrated in color p. 54 

Octavio Paz, "Tamayo en la Pintura Mexicana" in Rufino Tamayo (exhibition catalogue), Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, 1997, detail illustrated in color p. 39

Teresa del Conde, et al., Tamayo, Mexico City, 1998, illustrated in color p. 80

Teresa del Conde, et al., La Aparición de la Ruptura en 1900-2000: Un siglo de arte mexicano, Mexico City, 1999, discussed p. 192 

Octavio Paz, Rufino Tamayo, tres ensayos, Mexico City, 1999, illustrated in color p. 23

Octavio Paz, Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, 2003, no. 16, illustrated in color n.p.

Norma Jiménez Ávila, El Arte cósmico de Tamayo, Mexico City, 2010, no. 22, illustrated in color p. 84 

Ana Torres, Identidades pictóricas y culturales de Rufino Tamayo, ¿Un pintor de ruptura?, Mexico City, 2011, no. 8, illustrated in color p. 88  

Beatriz Espejo, "La ruta de Rufino Tamayo" in Revista de la Universidad de México, no. 121, Mexico City, 2014, illustrated in color p. 61

Catalogue Note

From the moment of its debut in New York at the Valentine Gallery in 1943, Perro aullando a la Luna was acclaimed as a landmark work announcing a pivotal stage in Rufino Tamayo’s career for its novelty and significance. A review of the exhibition reads: "A taste of fury has replaced the mystic calm that once characterized the work of Tamayo, the new works have been enhanced in enthusiasm, strength and savagery, and the colors are now deep, dry, and magnificent... the images... are daring, frontal, bearing segments obscurely shaded, there’s no place for stillness in the composition, but if any image is immobile, other elements of the painting add vibrations of movement and violence... however, it is when depicting animals that Tamayo reaches the peak of fantasy, of strength."

While living in New York during the early 1940s, Tamayo concentrated his artistic efforts on creating a dialogue between the aesthetics and artistic ethos of pre-Hispanic Mexican cultures and the diverse currents emerging in the European and American avant-gardes. Many of his American colleagues, including Adolph Gottlieb, disillusioned with "cold" European modernism, also turned to the art of indigenous people for inspiration. In his 1945 article The Painting of Tamayo and Gottlieb, Barnett Newman described this movement: “Tamayo and Gottlieb are alike in that, working in a free atmosphere of the art tradition of the school of Paris, they have their roots deep in the great art traditions of our American aborigines. This artistic synthesis has permitted them to produce works that are making a powerful imprint on the art of our times, both in America and Europe” (Newman, "The Painting of Tamayo and Gottlieb" in La Revista Belga, April 1945, n.p.) 

Perro aullando a la Luna is at once related to the pure animal despair of Guernica, to the hope of rebirth embodied in Colima funerary animals, and emotional power of abstract expressionism's rich colors and dynamic compositions. Tamayo depicts the powerful effects, both generative and destructive, of war on the Western psyche. Rich, vivid colors and the tense posture of the dog as it raises its head towards an eclipsing moon in a resounding howl transform the canvas into visual poetry. One can almost hear the echo of the howl as it fades further away into the cold blue, silent night in the background, furthering the feeling of desperation as his cry is not heard. Perro aullando a la Luna is a testament to the unprecedented aesthetic Tamayo adopted that established him as a critical figure in the canon of twentieth century art. Juan Carlos Pereda
Curator, Museo Tamayo de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City 

Rufino Tamayo spent his life filtering European modernism through his own undeniable Mexican identity. He made a career of not being political, setting himself in opposition to the didactic public murals and ideological discourse of his contemporaries, particularly Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. His paintings, he argued, were “purer,” generally engaging with timeless universal themes. In 1949, in a tersely worded artistic statement, he declared that “Painting is not literature, or journalism, or demagogy. Painting is… the wonderful combination of poetry, which bears the message, and visual qualities, which transmit that meaning.” (Tamayo, “Unas palabras de Rufino Tamayo”Espacios, June 1949, cited in Rufino Tamayo: Pinturas, Madrid, 1988, p. 35)

However, the artist’s work of the early 1940s cannot be understood without reference to World War II, a time of “great intensity,” as he said in a later interview (Ingrid Suckaer, Rufino Tamayo: Aproximaciones, Mexico City, 2000, p. 181.) In this period, while based primarily in New York, he created a series of anxious and unsettling pictures in which animals, particularly howling and barking dogs, serve as overt metaphors for conflict. This group of paintings was directly inspired by Picasso’s Guernica (1937), a denunciation of the bombing of civilians during the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, probably on more than one occasion, Tamayo saw and studied Picasso’s mural-sized canvas in exhibitions in New York, where it had been sent for safekeeping. Guernica famously includes two prominent animals—a threatening bull and a screaming horse. Tamayo’s paintings, however, were far more electric in their color range than Guernica’s newspaper-like monochrome; in addition, as Robert Goldwater noted early on, Tamayo’s animals were far more aggressive: “They express a spirit of revolt rather than the passive anguish Picasso depicted” (Goldwater, Rufino Tamayo, New York, 1947, p. 27.) 

In Perro aullando a la Luna (1942), the animal raises its head towards a moon in eclipse, set against a deep blue night sky. The veins of the dog’s throat seem to burst with energy, as the howl travels from his broad chest to the slash of white teeth in his open mouth. As in other works in this series showing dogs—most importantly Animals (1941), now in The Museum of Modern Art in New York—dry meatless bones appear in the foreground. The dark green wall to the right reinforces our sense that the dog is outside, unprotected, and perhaps unheard, as were so many voices in that terrible year of the Second World War, when democracy and freedom seemed irrevocably eclipsed by fascist victories.

Tamayo’s painting recalls—and perhaps cites—Joan Miró’s Dog Barking at the Moon (1926; Philadelphia Museum of Art), which in the early 1940s was on display at the Gallery of Living Art in New York, where Tamayo would have easily encountered it. Here, however, the artist replaces surrealist playfulness with something more sinister. Closer in date to Tamayo’s howling dog is Jackson Pollock’s equally fierce The She-Wolf (1943; The Museum of Modern Art). But whereas Pollock turned to Classical history (the title refers to the legendary she-wolf who suckled the founders of Rome), Tamayo’s references are drawn from Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage. The seated pose, taut rib-revealing skin, and open mouth—as well as the loud red color—are all features found on the ceramic figures from tombs in Colima showing the xoloitzcuintli (a local hairless breed used as both guard dog and food source); such sculptures were widely collected in both the United States and Mexico. But Colima dogs rarely look up; the specific position of the head more closely resembles effigies of seated howling coyotes from Gulf Coast Mexico.

Such references to the pre-Columbian past were an important part of post-Revolutionary Mexican art, a path signaled by David Alfaro Siqueiros in 1921, when he issued a manifesto calling for artists across the Americas to “absorb the synthetic energy” of the “ancient inhabitants of our valleys” without recourse to facile or illustrative recreations. (Siqueiros, “Three Appeals for the Current Guidance of the New Generation of American Painters and Sculptors” in Mari-Carmen Ramírez et al., Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, 2004, p. 459) Thus, the references in Tamayo’s animal paintings are not archaeological, or even overtly nationalist. They fit within a broader narrative in which diverse artists across the hemisphere consciously sought to construct a distinctly “American” modernism, informed equally by the local and the international—along with Pollock, Barnett Newman, Wifredo Lam and Maria Martins are just a few of the many proponents of this continental impulse.

Perro aullando a la Luna, the last major work from Tamayo’s series of animal paintings in private hands, was first acquired by Hollywood actress Evelyn Keyes from the Galería de Arte Mexicano, run by Inés Amor, then the leading dealer in Mexico City. It was once owned by Peter G. Wray, who amassed one of the most important collections of pre-Columbian art in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. Wray surely appreciated the allusions to ancient Colima and Veracruz still apparent in this powerful image.

James Oles 
Senior Lecturer, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts

We wish to thank Juan Carlos Pereda for his kind assistance in the cataloguing of this work.