Artwork Detail

Lion and Horse
Mexican, 1899–1991
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 46 1/2 "
University purchase, Kende Sale Fund, 1946
WU 3775
A lion with bared teeth advances on a horse within a colorful but largely desolate landscape. The horse, an animal closely associated with humankind, bucks in terror at the lion's approach, throwing back its head and opening its mouth wide as if to scream. The Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo made several animal fight paintings during World War II while living in New York City; violent encounters between animals can be seen as an allegory for the anxiety and uncertainty of the wartime period in the Americas. A similarly traumatized horse is central to Pablo Picasso's monumental painting "Guernica" (1937), which was frequently exhibited in New York City in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Like numerous artists living in the United States, Tamayo was influenced by the combination of political content and modernist abstraction in Guernica, which memorializes the tragic bombing of a Spanish town in 1937 by German and Italian armies during the Spanish Civil War. [Permanent collection label, 2019]