Rufino Tamayo was born in Oaxaca, Mexico in 1899. In 1991, he was orphaned and he moved to Mexico City to live with an aunt who sent him to commercial school. In 1915, Tamayo began taking drawing lessons and two years later, he left school to devote his studies entirely to art.
He was appointed head of the Department of Ethnographic Drawing at the Museo Nacional de Arqueología in Mexico City. His duties at the museum included drawing Pre-Columbian objects in the museums collection. Tamayo integrated aspects of the Pre- Columbian ceramics into his early still lifes and portraits of Mexican men and women. In 1926, Tamayo had his first exhibition in the United States at the Weyhe Gallery in New York. In 1932, he was given the first of many mural commissions by the Escuela Nacional de Música in Mexico City.
Tamayo moved to New York City in 1936 and was given shows by the Valentine Gallery throughout the late thirties and forties. Beginning in 1938, he taught for 10 years at the Dalton School in New York. In 1948, Tamayo’s first retrospective took place at the Instituto de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.
Influenced by European modernism, Tamayo traveled to Europe in 1957, settling in Paris to execute a mural for the UNESCO Building in 1958. In 1963, he returned to Mexico City to remain. In 1956 he was named Chevalier by the French government and in 1969, Officier de la Légion d’Honneur.
Like Diego Rivera, Tamayo was also a dedicated printmaker. He was first in 1973 by Luis and Lea Remba, with the idea of making prints. Uninterested, at first, Tamayo only wanted to make prints if he felt he could produce editions that had the same kind of volume, textures and depth as his paintings. Luis Remba and Tamayo developed a printing method called “Mixografia”,which allowed the artist to create a collage out of various materials, such as rope, cotton or charred wood, which would then cast in copper as a printing plate. Tamayo was pleased with the results and consequently, began a working relationship with Rembas which spanned a seventeen –year period, resulting in eighty editions. He produced his last series of lithographs at the age of ninety. Tamayo died in Mexico City in 1991.