The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
Rufino Tamayo made no reference to the government initiative being handled by Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros, although he expressed his strong opposition to the idea. In 1944 Tamayo had warned that Mexican painting was stagnating and in a state of severe crisis; he also expressed his disapproval of paintings inspired by a political agenda. Three years later he had not changed his mind; he thought that local proposals had originally been revolutionary and provocative but that the political messages were now obsolete and the work had deteriorated into demagoguery. He spoke out against the main representatives of Mexican mural painting. According to Tamayo, Rivera had done no worthwhile work since his murals at the School of Agronomy in Chapingo, Orozco was no longer what he used to be, and Siqueiros kept repeating the same thing over and over again. Tamayo took advantage of the interview to promote himself. He said that foreign critics thought his paintings were “very Mexican” as they had links to the pre-Hispanic past and showed his interest in universal themes.
In 1947 Rufino Tamayo (1899–1991) returned to Mexico after spending twelve years living in New York. Shortly after he arrived, the Galería de Arte Mexicano organized an exhibition of his work, and the following year the Palacio de Bellas Artes [Palace of Fine Arts] presented a retrospective of his career. Tamayo’s art does not deal with ruptures or profound changes. A thread of continuity runs through his pictorial development, which expresses a synthesis between the artistic concerns of the Mexican nationalist movement and the formal proposals of the western avant-garde of the early 20th century. Tamayo had moved in post-revolutionary cultural circles since producing his earliest paintings, and was interested in indigenous, traditional aspects of Mexico from a subjective, intimate perspective rather than a narrative, anecdotal point of view. As part of this approach, and among the variety of works produced in those years to express a sense of Mexican-ness, Tamayo used an experimental language associated with formal research and a pictorial expressionism that sought to convey the essence of being Mexican in terms of poetic and philosophical languages rather than political themes. In the late 1940s Tamayo became one of the “great” painters. He decided to challenge David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974) by claiming that he—Tamayo—had launched a new era of painting in Mexico. The two painters became embroiled in a long-running quarrel, each one claiming to represent opposing trends: “social realism” and “poetic realism.” This debate wove its way into international conversations that, during the Cold War, generated divisions based on politics as well as aesthetics. Like his disgruntled colleagues, Tamayo thought the “Big Three” had been authoritarian and monopolistic. The bulk of his criticism lacked objectivity, however, because he attacked Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros without ever acknowledging their artistic contributions.