RAFAEL TUFÍÑO aka “El Pintor del Pueblo” was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1922 to Puerto Rican parents. He was born on Bridge Street, Brooklyn, under the Brooklyn Bridge, in a neighborhood that has since been called “Dumbo.”
From 1927 to 1932 he traveled between Puerto Rico and New York, attending schools in both places. By 1932 Tufiño had moved to Puerto Rico, where he explored drawing, poster painting, and other artistic activities, including assisting in the creation of carnival floats. Some of Tufiño’s first existing drawings date from his tenure in the army in Panama (1943-1946).
After this, he spent a year in New York, where he established a sign shop at 110th Street and Lexington Avenue in El Barrio. In 1947 he took advantage of a G.I. Bill scholarship to attend the Academy of San Carlos, Mexico, where he experimented with fresco painting, drawing and engraving. He became acquainted with the legendary Mexican print studio Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP) and its artists, although he did not formally study there. He traveled extensively throughout the country and lived with the Zapotec Indians.
In 1948 Tufiño married the Mexican Luz María (Lucha) Aguirre. In 1950, when he returned to Puerto Rico, Tufiño expanded his growing interest in engraving. In collaboration with Lorenzo Homar, José A. Torres Martinó and Félix Rodríguez Báez, he founded the Puerto Rican Art Center (CAP), where he perfected his linoleum techniques. During the 1950s, Tufiño produced a large group of prints, including several renowned graphic portfolios. Tufiño painted the important large-scale mural La Plena from 1952 to 1954 and during this same period, he developed and exhibited an important body of paintings, prints, drawings, and posters by award-winning artists. By 1963 Tufiño had started working in the engraving workshop of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP), where he remained until 1967. He continued to design posters for DIVEDCO until the late 1960s.
In 1970, Tufiño returned to New York with fellow artist Carlos Osorio and became actively involved in the nascent Taller Boricua organization (the Puerto Rican Workshop), founded in 1969 simultaneously with El Museo del Barrio to promote the art and culture of Puerto Ricans. Tufiño was one of the important bridges between the great artistic community of the island with that of New York. He was honored in numerous international exhibitions and is represented in the permanent collections of many institutions, including El Museo del Barrio, Museum of Modern Art (NY), Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), Library of Congress (Washington, DC), The Museum of Art of Puerto Rico (PR), Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (PR), The Museum of Art of Ponce (PR) and, more recently, the National Arts Club in New York City. He died in 2008 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.