Franciso Toledo

Francisco Benjamn López Toledo was born on this day in 1940 in Juchitán, Oaxaca, the centre of the Indigenous Zapotec culture. His exceptional ability for sketching was discovered when he was just 9 years old, and by the age of 19, he had staged his first solo show. Francisco Toledo was a painter, sculptor, and graphic artist from Mexico. Toledo’s paintings mirror Mexican mythology and frequently show the influence of Surrealism and Paul Klee’s whimsical style. This is seen in his work Hidden Scorpion (1996), in which the artist uses curling fractals to suggest a scorpion’s body. 

“What I do is a mash-up of things,” he added, “but the pre-Hispanic world has been a source of inspiration.” “There are certain decorative solutions that originate from pre-Hispanic art, and there is a lot of primitive art that is polished or basic but yet quite modern.” Toledo, self-described as a grillo (cricket) who thought his work reflected the restless Oaxacan spirit, travelled to Paris in the 1960s to study sculpture, painting, and printing. But he soon ached for the simpler life he had left behind. In 1965, he went to Oaxaca, where his skill and activism played an important part in the development of the southern Mexican state into a centre of the worldwide art community.

During this period, Toledo first gained worldwide popularity with a watercolour series of animal-human hybrids that formed his distinctive style steeped in Indigenous art traditions, Zapotec mythology, and influence from artists such as Francisco Goya. For over seven decades, Toledo experimented with every visual media imaginable, creating around 9,000 pieces ranging from a scorpion sculpture made of turtle shells to cloth puppets. His legacy lives on through the libraries, cultural institutes, and museums he created in Oaxaca, many of which are open to the public.