Rufino Tamayo, in full Rufino Arellanes Tamayo (born August 26, 1899, Oaxaca, Mexico—died June 24, 1991, Mexico City), Mexican painter who combined modern European painting styles with Mexican folk themes.
Tamayo attended the School of Fine Arts in Mexico City from 1917 to 1921, but he was dissatisfied with the traditional art program and thereafter studied independently. He became head of the department of ethnographic drawing at the National Museum of Archaeology (1921–26) in Mexico City, where he developed an interest in pre-Columbian art.
Tamayo spent many years of his career in New York City, first settling there from 1926 to 1928. He retained his ties to Mexico and returned there often, but the modern art he encountered in New York—especially the paintings of European artists Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Henri Matisse—profoundly influenced his work. Tamayo reacted against the epic proportions and political rhetoric of the paintings of the Mexican muralists, who had dominated the country’s art production since the Mexican Revolution. Instead, he chose to address formal and aesthetic issues in easel paintings, fusing European styles such as Cubism and Surrealism with subject matter that often involved Mexican culture.