Archive for dorothea tanning

Goodbye Dorothea Tanning

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY with tags , , , , , on February 11, 2012 by echostains

The oldest living Surrealist artist Dorothea Tanning passed away January 31 2012 at the great age of 101.  Tanning was born in Galesburg Illinois USA 1910, attending Knox College  before living in Chicago for several years.  In 1936 whilst attending the exhibition  Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art New York, Tanning discovered the wonderful world of Surrealism and Dada.  To support herself, Tanning worked as a commercial artist, but she  soon began to work on her own surreal paintings in the early 1940s.

Lee Millar portrait of Tanning and Ernst

She was introduced to Julien Levy, a gallery owner who was to show her work and give her two one person exhibitions in 1944 and 1948.  He introduced her to a circle of Surrealists  whose work he was showing in his New York gallery.  The young artist fell immediately in love with German surrealist Max Ernst and married him in 1946.  Tanning’s surreal paintings have a dreamlike quality and a very individual style.

She lived in  France with Ernst after the war for 28 years.  Her work features in MOMA. The George Pompidou Centre. The Tate Gallery London and many more collections around the world.  She created costumes for  Balanchine between the 1940s and 50s and sculptures in the 70s

Maternity 1946

At the age of 91 the artist was asked how she felt about carrying the surrealist banner;-

I guess I’ll be called a surrealist forever, like a tattoo: “D. Loves S.” I still believe in the surrealist effort to plumb our deepest subconscious to find out about ourselves. But please don’t say I’m carrying the surrealist banner. The movement ended in the ’50s and my own work had moved on so far by the ’60s that being a called a surrealist today makes me feel like a fossil!

Birthday 1942

Tanning moved back to New York in 1979 after Ernst’s death. Among others, she found a friend in Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill. It was Merrill

 “Who more than anyone at that point of my life, made me realize that living was still wonderful even though I felt that my loss, Max, had left nothing but ashes,” she says. “So if I took up brushes again, and the pen, to work for 20 more solitary years — and am still at it — it was Jimmy who made me want to, and so proved himself right.”

Tanning published her first book in 1986, The book is a collection of reminiscences and is called “Birthday,” after her most famous painting.


Her career spanned 6 decades, she was a printmaker, sculptor – she  wrote and published  poems and a novel.  She counselled young artists with these words;-

“Keep your eye on your inner world and keep away from ads, idiots and movie stars.”

I was lucky enough to see her work in 2001 at a surrealist exhibition at the Tate Modern, called ‘Desire Unbound’ 2001 .  Her dreamlike scenarios work ensure that she is still known as a surrealist.

Palaestra 1947


One of my posts about Women Surrealists and their work can be found here

Night Music image from here

Voltage, Palaestra, Ernst and Tanning, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik portrait by Lee Millar, Maternity from the wonderful where lots of her work can be found

Birthday image from here

More about Dorothea Tanning can be found here

Interview with the artist can be found here

‘Angels of Anarchy’ Women and Surrealism Exhibition

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, exhibitions, FAVORITE ART: Art I LOVE, OUT AND ABOUT MANCHESTER, PAST PLACES with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2009 by echostains

I went to see this exhibition yesterday at Manchester City Art Gallery.  Surrealism challenges  the order and acceptance of everything.  Logic is turned upside down, inside out, new meanings come into being from unlikely juxtapositions thereby making new art.  Surrealism began in the 1920s led by Andre Breton and fellow writers and artists (including Dali).

the surrealist 1930 -1 a mans world

the surrealist 1930 -1 a mans world

As can be seen from the original surrealists – it was a man’s world.  Women associated with the artists were usually, girlfriends, wives or muses and they still held submissive roles….  All that was set to change though as women tried to establish themselves as artists instead of models or props.  Untapped and untried talent began to rise to the surface and given freedom of expression succeeded in transforming these former  muses  into artist’s in their own right.

Diego and me by Frida Kahlo, I found this rather touching

Diego and me by Frida Kahlo, I found this rather touching

A double portrait of Frida Kahlo and her husband  Diego Rivera was the first piece I looked at.  This a painting in oil on wood set in an icon frame.  The face is made up of half of each others face, painted in pinkish/coral and edged with shells.  Though garish, there is something very sweet and romantic about it, like it was made with love.

angel of anarchy by eileen agar

angel of anarchy by eileen agar

The title of the exhibition ‘Angels of Anarchy’ was taken from a piece of work by Eileen Agar.  Made between 1936 – 40, this head  (one of four, but only two survive) is veiled or swathed in  many different fabrics.  It is a puzzling piece, both passive yet defiant.  There is mystery between these layers.  A sphinx with a secret.  The piece is also very tactile, with the velvet, raised stitching and beads – intriguing.

Leonora Carrington, one of the many women artists featured

Leonora Carrington, one of the many women artists featured

Amongst the many themes are the photographs, which must take star place.  Especially interesting are the photographs these women took of each other.   They gaze frankly into the camera, they are not trying to be anything, they just are.  The close friendship between the women shows through.  They are all struggling towards the same cause, not competing with each other.

Lee miller by Man Ray, check out her photographs!

Lee miller by Man Ray, check out her photographs!

There are quite a number of Lee Miller’s photographs.  Miller, former model and muse to Man Ray became famous as a photographer and produced many powerful pictures.  Lots of Leonora Fini’s work too.  Fini, a cat lover incorporated hybrids of these creatures in her paintings.  This one, ‘Petit Sphinx Hermite’ 1948 includes a sphinx like creature.  She believed that Sphinx’s provided a bridge from this world to the unconscious mind.

Little Hermit sphinx leonora fini

Little Hermit sphinx leonora fini

Claude Cahun’s photography is concerned with identity, gender and masks.  Her material is absolutely fascinating and mostly auto biographical.


Claude Cahun, concerned with identity and gender

Claude Cahun, concerned with identity and gender

Other themes are ‘still lives’ and women’s spaces.  These spaces do not lie in the home.  Indeed in some photo’s or paintings, rooms are depicted as empty.  Also there are lots of references to birds and cages.  In fact, there was displayed, a head in a cage and a bird trying to get in!  The cleared room also may act as a metaphor for an uncluttered mind, a space to think (without the chores of domesticity?).

a little night music by Dorothea Tanning 1946

a little night music by Dorothea Tanning 1946

Everyone has heard of Merret Oppenheimer (and her fur cup and saucer) there are quite a few not so known pieces in the exhibition by her.  But Mimi Parent,  (1924 – 2005 Canada) I hadn’t heard of before.     Her work has a fetish element to it.  A whip made from hair for example……  Here’s another work by hair (not in the exhibition).  Oh there is so much more to be seen!  Go and enjoy!

mimi parent, interesting: man/woman with a pearl tie pin

mimi parent, interesting: man/woman with a pearl tie pin

Please go if you possibly can, to this wonderful celebration of women surrealist.  Information HERE

Penny Slinger:   A contemporary surrealist.  For the background of this interesting artist click HERE

HERE’S Germaine Greer’s take on Women Surrealist artists…………..

Another of my post about beiing out and about Manchester: ‘Mr Thomas’s Chop House’ HERE

‘Angels of Anarchy’ Women Surrealists Exhibition

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, exhibitions with tags , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2009 by echostains

Just a short post today.  I have had a lovely day out in Manchester.  A bit of shopping, a lovely meal and an art exhibition.  The  exhibtion at the City Art Gallery is called ‘Angels of Anarchy’ Women artists and Surrealism, and what a great exhibition it was! I made quite a few notes, and shall be writing about it tomorrow.

Leonora Fini.  This painting is just one of many of the pieces  at The Angels of Anarchy exhibition

Leonora Fini. This painting is just one of many of the pieces at The Angels of Anarchy exhibition

Amongst the artists featured are Leonora Carrington, Leonora Fini, Claude Cahun, Frida Kahlo, and Eileen Agar, Dorothea Tanning…and that’s just for starters!

Francesca Woodmans 'On being an Angel'

Francesca Woodmans 'On being an Angel'

For more information about this exhibition see HERE

Continued tomorrow