About the Artwork

Rufino Tamayo (Mexico, 1899–1991), Man with Tall Hat (Hombre con sombrero alto), circa 1930.
Watercolor and charcoal on paper; 24 1/8 × 18 in. (61.3 × 45.7 cm); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art (AC1997.LWN.80); © 2024 Rufino Tamayo / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Works on paper of Mexican scenes and Indigenous subjects were popular among collectors in the United States in the 1930s, and helped to support Rufino Tamayo financially as he worked on larger and more experimental canvases. At the same time, Man with Tall Hat rejects many of the conventions expected by this market that was greatly interested in exotic themes. Rather than using bright colors, Tamayo’s muted palette is drawn from neutral earth tones. The subject is not presented in a folkloric narrative—such as working or dancing—but rather is presented as an intimate bust, facing the viewer. The stacked homes behind the man are a nod to Cubist landscapes, suggesting transnational visual connections beyond Mexico. The signature hat dominates the composition, larger even than the face of the subject, whose stylized features suggest that this is not a specific individual.

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