Artist: Francisco Toledo (Mexican, born Juchitán, 1940)
Medium: Color etching and aquatint
Dimensions: Plate: 8 13/16 x 11 11/16 inches (22.4 x 29.6 cm)
Sheet: 15 x 20 7/16 inches (38.1 x 52 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Bannon McHenry, 1985
Accession Number: 1985.1139
Born of Zapotec parents in 1940 in the town of Juchit on Mexico's Gulf of Tehuantepec, Francisco Toledo began studying art at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Oaxaca city. At seventeen, he left Oaxaca to continue training at the Taller Libre de Grabado in Mexico City. Three years later he moved to Paris, where he worked in the shop of the renowned British printmaker Stanley William Hayter. By the time he returned to Mexico in 1965, Toledo had been recognized in Europe as a singular artist and celebrated by art critics for his "development of the mythic" and "his sacred sense of life." Settling in Oaxaca, he produced paintings and stone, wood, and wax sculptures, as well as graphics. As a medium, graphics particularly intrigued him from early in his career because of the extraordinary range of effects available through printing and etching. Recently, motivated by a strong sense of responsibility for the preservation of local cultural traditions, Toledo began to protect and promote the arts and crafts of Oaxaca through the founding of institutions including the Graphic Arts Institute in Oaxaca, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Center for Photography.
Toledo's unique vision is based on a fantastic reality that he finds residing in nature and life. It is a vision that reflects his deep appreciation and astute observation of nature, particularly of animals (that are not often associated with beauty, such as insects, toads, and bats). His inspiration is gained from his profound understanding of his own as well as other cultures. Anthropomorphized creatures and metamorphosed objects are a persistent aspect of his work.
Entitled Venados (Deer), this engraving in somber earth tones features four insect-eyed, bare-breasted female figures carrying a full-sized deer in an upright position on their shoulders. Held together by a rope, they are led by a fifth female figure with a male deer upon her head. Framing the composition are the heads and shoulders of profile deer.
Since Toledo worked in Hayter's atelier, it is not surprising that intaglio was among his preferred media. The exacting line of the engraver's burin allowed for the kind of elegant line and sharp detail evident in this print—from the long, curving lines of the women's torsos to the staccato strokes of the deer's fur. Toledo created subtle tonal passages in muted earth tones to complement his graceful lines using the technique of aquatint. The contrast between the dark, smoky tones of the composition and its passages of light enhance the mystical quality of this enigmatic image.