Notes from the Catalogue: Latin American Art

Our largest offering of Latin American prints and originals to date comes across the block in our Old Master Through Modern Prints sale May 2. Compiled into a separate catalogue, the material includes drawings by Diego Rivera, scarce Mixografía prints by Rufino Tamayo, works by Roberto Matta and more.


Diego Rivera

Rivera, who helped establish the Mexico Mural Movement and was a leading figure in Social Realism, was born in Guanajuato in North-Central Mexico. His well-to-do family encouraged his artistic avidity from a young age; his parents installed chalkboards and canvases around the house after coming home one afternoon to find the walls covered in their toddler’s drawings.


Black crayon line drawing of a landscape by DIego Rivera.
Lot 360: Diego Rivera, Paisaje, crayon on paper, 1926. Estimate $8,000 to $12,000.


In 1897, Rivera began studying at the oldest art school in Latin America, the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City (now the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes). He remained until 1907 (three years before the start of the Mexican Revolution) at which point he left for Europe to continue his practice. Rivera spent most of the next 14 years abroad, mainly in Paris, where he was deeply involved in the thriving avant-garde art scene. He was well-connected to the artistic circle in Montparnasse and was friends with Amedeo Modigliani, who painted several portraits of him in 1914. 


Crayon line drawing of a man in a sombrero by Diego Rivera.
Lot 368: Diego Rivera, Bailarina Enmascarada en la Carnival Huejotzingo, conté crayon on paper, 1949. Estimate $15,000 to $20,000.
The Carnival of Huejotzingo is a Lenten celebration in Puebla, Mexico, in which thousands of celebrants dress in costume.


Rufino Tamayo

The Mixografía technique was invented by Luis and Shaye Remba working closely with Tamayo in 1973. The process involves an artist creating a model or maquette from any combination of materials from which a sequence of plates is then cast and molded. 


Image of two dogs chasing after two people by Rufino Tamayo.
Lot 406: Rufino Tamayo, Dos Personajes atacados por Perros, color Mixografía, 1983. Estimate $15,000 to $20,000.

“As the number of colors we use decreases, the wealth of possibilities increases.”

Rufino Tamayo


Black and white image of Rufino Tamayo drawing on the lithograph stone for "Dos Personajes atacados por Perros."
Courtesy of Museo Tamayo


Tamayo worked with the Rembas to develop Mixografía in order to achieve more surface texture and depth in his printed images. Dos Personajes atacados por Perros, which utilizes the largest lithography stone ever produced, was made from a mammoth stone, measuring 10×6 feet, and weighing 10,000 pounds. The stone still sits in the Mixografía workshop–which was located in Mexico City during Tamayo’s lifetime, but is now in Los Angeles.


A Mixografía print in purples and blacks of a figure with outstretched arms by Rufino Tamayo.
Lot 416: Rufino Tamayo, Hombre con Brazos Abiertos, color Mixografía, 1984. Estimate $5,000 to $8,000.


Roberto Matta

Matta was born in Chile, but his surrealist ambitions were informed by the friendships he had with leading Abstract Expressionists and Surrealists, such as Arshile Gorky, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí and Le Corbusier. At the beginning of Matta’s artistic career, after he had left the Merchant Marines, he survived through providing illustrations for Surrealist art journals (such as Minotaure). This undoubtedly informed his later work, as his output reflects both his attention to detail in creating full, almost narrative scenes and his focus on the psyche. His most psychologically poignant series, the Inscape series, was created in the late 1930s and experimented with the concept of showing the artist’s inner psyche as a landscape. The circle of surrealist artists severed ties with Matta after Gorky’s suicide, apparently precipitated by an affair between Gorky’s wife and Matta. 


Surrealist pencil and crayon drawing of women and cowboys by Roberto Matta
Lot 426: Roberto Matta, Damas y Caballeros, pencil & crayon, circa 1964. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.


Matta’s later output reveals an increased concern over current events and world politics; during the 1950s and 1960s he traveled between South America and Europe, showing his large semi-abstract canvases that combined both political and psychological elements. These works frequently featured imaginary biomorphic forms in multi-dimensional landscapes that appear to swirl and struggle with tension. His highly imaginative, psychologically fraught oeuvre is among some of the most recognizable Surrealist imagery of the twentieth century.


Additional work by Latin American artists can be found here.

For more in our May 2 sale, browse the full catalogue or download the Swann Galleries App.