Tamayo made over three hundred prints, most of them after 1950, around the time that he first experimented with color lithography. "Mujer sonriente" is one of sixteen lithographs in the portfolio "Mujeres", which portrays women in myriad forms—alone and in pairs, at half- and full-length, somber and irrepressibly smiling. Tamayo’s figures became simplified over time, their features essentialized into pure, plastic values of color and form that resonated with the stylized figures of pre-Columbian carving, which he admired and collected, as well as with modern abstraction. "Mujer sonriente" depicts its subject with wistful joy and affection, its bright accents of orange and watermelon-pink glowing against a jade-blue background. Tamayo plumbed great depths of human emotion in his work, and "Mujer sonriente" radiates with a happiness rarely seen, figure and ground rendered with graphic vitality and warmth.
Text credit: Produced in collaboration with the University of Maryland Department of Art History & Archaeology and written by Abigail McEwen.