Lot 49
  • 49

RUFINO TAMAYO | Paisaje del Paricutín (Volcán en erupción) [Landscape of el Paricutín]

1,300,000 - 1,800,000 USD
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  • Rufino Tamayo
  • Paisaje del Paricutín (Volcán en erupción) [Landscape of el Paricutín] 
  • Signed Tamayo and dated 47 (lower right)
  • Oil and sand on canvas
  • 30 1/8 by 40 1/8 in.
  • 76.5 by 102 cm
  • Painted in 1947.


M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York

Charles Bolles Rogers, Minneapolis, Minnesota (acquired from the above) 

Minneapolis Museum of Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota (acquired from the above)

Galerías Iturbide, Mexico City (acquired from the above)

Acquired from the above in 1971


Mexico City, Galería de Arte Mexicano, Tamayo: Diez óleos y seis dibujos, 1947, no. 9  

New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Tamayo, 1950, no. 14 (titled Volcano in Eruption

Dallas, The Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Three Contemporary Mexican Painters, 1948, no. 6 (titled Paricutín)
Buenos Aires, Instituto de Arte Moderno, Rufino Tamayo: Pinturas y Litografías, 1951, no. 13, illustrated in the catalogue 

Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago, Tamayo, 1952, no. 14 (titled Volcano

Washington, D.C., Pan American Union, Tamayo, 1952, n.n. (titled Volcano

Fort Worth, Fort Worth Art Museum, Tamayo, 1952, no. 6 (titled Volcano

New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Recent Works by Rufino Tamayo, 1956, no. 2

Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Miami, Miami Art Museum & Mexico City, Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted, 2007-08, no. 79, illustrated in color in the catalogue 

Mexico City, Colegio de San Ildefonso, México, esplendores de treinta siglos, 1992-93, n.n. 

Mexico City, Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Arte Moderno de México 1900-1950, no. 334, illustrated in color in the catalogue (titled Escena nocturna del Paricutín


Xavier Villarrutia, "Rufino Tamayo" in Tamayo: 20 años de su labor pictórica (exhibition catalogue), Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Nacional de Artes Plásticas, 1948, n.n., illustrated n.p. 

Paul Westheim, Tamayo: Una investigación estética, Mexico City, 1957, illustrated n.p. (titled Paricutín

Teresa del Conde, et al., Tamayo, Mexico City, 1998, illustrated in color p. 132 

Octavio Paz, et al., Transfiguraciones en historia del arte de Oaxaca, Mexico City, 1998, vol. III, illustrated in color p. 25 

Marisa Fernández, "Paisaje: terreno del ser humano" in Reflejos del Paisaje, Mexico City, 2009, illustrated in color p. 105 

Juan Carlos Pereda, et al., Del mural al caballete: El México de Rufino Tamayo y David Alfaro Siqueiros, Mexico City, 2013, illustrated in color p. 75

Catalogue Note

In 1943, a volcano emerged from the ground in a farmer’s cornfield near the town of Uruapan in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. At first, ash formed a one thousand foot high cone. Later, lava started to pour out the fissures, eventually burying the nearby village, which had been evacuated. According to an eyewitness: “In the evening, when night began to fall, we heard noises like the surge of the sea, and red flames of fire rose into the darkened sky, some rising 2,600 feet or more into the air, that burst like golden marigolds, and a rain like artificial fire fell to the ground” (D. Bressan “75 Years Ago Humanity Witnessed The Birth Of A Volcano,” in Forbes, February 20, 2018, n.p.). Although it was most active in its first year, throughout the 1940s the volcano continued to capture the imaginations of scientists, photographers, Hollywood filmmakers and artists such as Roberto Matta, Gunter Gerszo and Dr. Atl. Because it continued to be active (until 1952 when it suddenly ceased as abruptly as it had started) and had been documented from the moment of its appearance, the volcano presented a unique opportunity for scientists to study the full life cycle of an eruption of this type. (U.S. geologist William Foshag studied the growth of the volcano beginning one month after its birth.) The smoldering volcano was featured extensively in Life magazine and is a prominent backdrop in various scenes of the 1947 Hollywood movie Captain from Castile (see: Life, April 17, 1944, pp. 88-95). The eruption had garnered so much popular attention that airplanes, flying from Los Angeles to Mexico City, diverted from their normal routes in order to catch a glimpse of the burning volcano.  Mexico’s Dirección General de Turísmo even plastered an image of a fiery Paricutín on posters encouraging travel to Mexico and to the area, making it a symbol of the nation.In his painted canvas of 1947, Paisaje del Paricutín, Rufino Tamayo seems to visualize the eyewitness’s oral account cited above, focusing on the nocturnal scene and sparks of red and orange lava that both burst open and rain down like artificial fire from the sky.  Beyond the specificity of this violent outburst as a local natural phenomenon that captivated the world, Paisaje del Paricutin needs to be understood in relation to a series of works the artist produced during the war years, in which he had begun to incorporate references to the cosmos, the birth of the atomic age and veiled references to crisis and trauma. James Oles has analyzed these paintings of howling animals, figure running from fire, and devastating cataclysms and has linked them to the tensions and crises of the war and the early atomic age. Thousands of people were displaced by the eruption of Paricutín and forced to rebuild their lives elsewhere; Life magazine emphasized, “Paricutin is sample of Earth’s interior hell.” Yet unlike his paintings of figures escaping burning buildings or children playing with fire—the works that immediately preceded this painting—Paisaje del Paricutin is an abstracted landscape. It is as Oles states, a representation of an “earth-shattering event” and “unleashed natural forces,” broader themes that no doubt preoccupied the artist (J. Oles in “The Howl and the Flame: Tamayo’s Wartime Allegories,” Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted (exhibition catalogue), Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, 2007, pp. 308-09). To be sure, curator and art historian Diana Du Pont indicates that Tamayo’s painting should be understood as a “Surrealist metaphor for the unconscious and as an indigenist icon of Mexico’s emergence as a modern nation” (D. Du Pont, “Realistic, Never Descriptive”: Tamayo and the Art of Abstract Figuration” in op. cit., p. 73).

A master colorist, Tamayo uses his signature method of mixing oil with sand, which in this painting formally reinforces and materializes the theme of a soot-filled landscape. The brilliant reds and oranges of the lava are set against a deep purple and pinkish sky. Lines radiate and puncture the composition while the angled branches of an anthropomorphic burned tree to the right echo the forms of the lava spurting out from the volcano. Through formal means, Tamayo expresses the dynamism of this violent outburst focusing on the awe-inspiring and unbridled energy of subterranean forces. 

Anna Indych-López
2018-2019 Stuart Z. Katz Professor of the Humanities and the Arts
The City College of New York, CUNY
Professor of Latin American and Latina/o Art
Ph.D. Program in Art History, The Graduate Center, CUNY

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