Curator‘s Comments

In March 2005, the monumental mural Nature and the Artist: The Work of Art and the Observer by the Mexican master Rufino Tamayo was permanently installed in the atrium of the newly renovated Brown Fine Arts Center. Originally commissioned by the College in 1943 to honor Elizabeth Cutter Morrow (class of 1896) for her service to Smith, it was painted as a true fresco on the walls of the old Hillyer Art Library during the artist’s residency at the College. It is the artist’s first large-scale fresco created in the United States.
In the late 1960s, before Hillyer was razed to make way for the new Fine Arts Center, the fresco was removed from the library walls by the Boston firm of Oliver Bros., Inc., using the Italian strappo method. It was subsequently sectioned and remounted on twenty-two movable panels that fit together much like a giant puzzle. The theme of the mural is the act of artistic creation inspired by nature and the primal elements: earth, air, fire, and water. The mural can be “read” from left to right: from the inspiration of the subject, through the creative process itself (in a self-portrait of the artist at work), to the viewer’s encounter with a finished work of art.

Nature and the Artist: The Work of Art and the Observer

Rufino Tamayo. Mexican, 1899–1991

Nature and the Artist: The Work of Art and the Observer, 1943

Fresco, remounted on muslin and panels

Commissioned by Smith College in honor of Mrs. Dwight W. Morrow (Elizabeth Cutter, class of 1896)

ID Number: SC 1943:8