Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tanguy, Yves

Aupres des Sables
gouache on paper
11.9 x 17.1 cm
private collection

Yves Tanguy's paintings have a unique, immediately recognizable style of nonrepresentational surrealism. They show vast, abstract landscapes, mostly in a tightly limited palette of colors, only occasionally showing flashes of contrasting color accents. Typically, these alien landscapes are populated with various abstract shapes, sometimes angular and sharp as shards of glass, sometimes with an intriguingly organic look to them, like giant amoebae suddenly turned to stone.

Raymond Georges Yves Tanguy (1900 -1955), known as Yves Tanguy, was a French-born American surrealist painter, originally a merchant seaman.
He was born in Paris, France, the son of a retired navy captain. In 1918, he briefly joined the merchant navy before being drafted into the Army. At the end of his military service in 1922, he returned to Paris, where he worked various odd jobs. By chance, he stumbled upon a painting by Giorgio de Chirico and was so deeply impressed he resolved to become a painter himself in spite of his complete lack of formal training.

Tanguy had a habit of being completely absorbed by the current painting he was working on. This way of creating artwork may have been due to his very small studio which only had enough room for one wet piece. In around 1924 he was introduced into the circle of surrealist artists around Andre Breton. He quickly began to develop his own unique painting style. During this busy time of his life, Andre Breton gave Tanguy a contract to paint 12 pieces a year. With his fixed income, he painted less and only ended up creating eight works of art for Breton.

Throughout the 1930s, Tanguy adopted the bohemian lifestyle of the struggling artist with gusto. In 1938, after seeing the work of fellow artist Kay Sage, he began a relationship with her. With the outbreak of World War II, Sage moved back to her native New York, and Tanguy, judged unfit for military service, followed her. He would spend the rest of his life in the United States. Sage and Tanguy were married in Reno, Nevada in 1940. Toward the end of the war, the couple moved to Woodbury, Connecticut, converting an old farmhouse into an artists' studio. They spent the rest of their lives there. In 1948, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 1955, Yves Tanguy suffered a fatal stroke at Woodbury. His body was cremated and his ashes preserved by Kay. Badly affected by the sudden death of Yves Tanguy in 1955, Kay went blind, little by little, but nevertheless did finish the Complete Catalogue of Yves Tanguy’s work before committing suicide in 1963. Later, Yves Tanguy's ashes were scattered by his friend Pierre Matisse on the beach at Douarnenez in his beloved Brittany, together with those of his wife Kay.