Francisco Toledo was born in 1940 in Juchitán, Mexico. He studied at the Benito Juarez Autonomous University in Oaxaca and the Taller Libre de Grabado in Mexico City before moving to Paris at age 17 and learning from writer Octavio Paz, painter Rufino Tamayo, and many others. Toledo also honed his printmaking skills in the studio of Stanley William Hayter. Toledo returned to Mexico in 1965 and became a part of “la Ruptura” (or the Breakaway Generation), a group of Mexican artists working against established nationalistic styles. Toledo settled in Oaxaca and became a key figure of Mexican art and cultural preservation in Oaxaca. He was regarded by many as Mexico’s greatest living artist until his passing in 2019.
Toledo is known for his works on paper, especially intaglio prints and paintings, but he created thousands of artworks including collages, tapestries, and ceramics. His work often features Zapotec imagery from his indigenous pre-Columbian heritage. His style is described as using folklore, Shamanism, and mysticism to blend animals and humans; Expressionistic; and environmental. Toledo was known as El Maestro, the master or teacher, who was devoted to bringing art to the masses. He was deeply invested in his community in Oaxaca and thus created the Oaxaca Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca, a library for the blind, a photographic arts center, a botanical garden, and more. He described these projects as his inspiration to continue producing and selling art. Toledo’s work is now included in the collections of major institutions in the United States, Mexico, and internationally.