Rufino Tamayo MMoCA Collects

Demi poisson (Halved Fish)

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Rufino Tamayo, Demi poisson (Halved Fish), 1969, Lithograph.
Rufino Tamayo. Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

A muralist and painter, Tamayo was also an important printmaker. While in Mexico, Tamayo figured prominently in the woodcut revival of the 1920s that began the history of the modern Mexican print. Demi poisson is from a later portfolio of twenty lithographs entitled Mujeres (Women). Taking traditional themes in western art—the female nude and still life—the prints reveal Tamayo's Mexican heritage in their bright color and folk-like forms. They are, however, blended with modernist styles, most especially those of expressionism and surrealism. Demi poisson presents an expressionist rendering of a filleted flounder surrounded by nine slices of lemon. The flounder is not placed on a platter but on a simple surface. The encircling yellow rounds of lemons give the still life a sacramental quality. They suggest something out of the ordinary that is magical and symbolic. The everyday is made fantastical—the surrealist's approach to reality.