Although Tamayo was based in Mexico City for much of his career, he traveled extensively in Europe and the United States, spending significant amounts of time in New York and Paris in the 1920s, 1930s, late 1940s, and 1950s. At odds with the politically charged narratives of the Mexican muralists—Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros—Tamayo sought a more universal vocabulary in his paintings. While some of his subjects and his choice of colors were informed by Mexican art and culture, his flattened compositions and abstract forms derive from European modernism. This painting depicts three children playing in a circle, their bodies reduced to a jumble of irregular, flat shapes suggesting heads, legs, torsos, and arms. The disjointed elements create a syncopated rhythm that is enhanced by the agitated application of paint.
Inscription: Signed and dated (upper right): Tamayo '59
the artist, Paris (1959; sold in May 1959 to Colin); Mr. and Mrs. Ralph F. Colin, New York (1959–83; their gift to MMA)
New York. Knoedler Gallery. "Tamayo," November 17–December 12, 1959, no. 24.
New York. Knoedler Gallery. "The Colin Collection: Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture," April 12–May 14, 1960, no. 91.
Piazza San Marco. "XXXIV Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d'Arte Venezia," June 22–October 20, 1968, no. 4 (as "Giuochi di fanciulli," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph F. Colin, New York).
Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City. "Rufino Tamayo," September 1969, no. 26.
Virginia Museum of Art, Richmond. "Selections from the Colin Collection," February 13–March 15, 1970, no catalogue.
New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "Rufino Tamayo: Myth and Magic," May 18–August 12, 1979, no. 61.
Ralph F. Colin. The Colin Collection: Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. Exh. cat., Knoedler Gallery. New York, 1960, unpaginated, no. 91, ill.
Octavio Paz and Jacques Lassaigne. Rufino Tamayo. New York, 1982, colorpl. 53, call it "Children Playing (Niños jugando)" and locate it in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph F. Collin [sic], New York, U.S.A.
Lisa M. Messinger in "Twentieth Century Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1983–1984. New York, 1984, p. 102, ill. (color), identifies this work as the first by the artist to enter the MMA's collection.