Jump to content

Yves Tanguy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Yves Tanguy
A 1938 photograph of Tanguy by Denise Bellon
Raymond Georges Yves Tanguy

(1900-01-05)January 5, 1900
Paris, France
DiedJanuary 15, 1955(1955-01-15) (aged 55)
NationalityFrench and American
Known forPainting
Patron(s)Pierre Matisse
Indefinite Divisibility, 1942; Oil on canvas.

Raymond Georges Yves Tanguy (January 5, 1900 – January 15, 1955), known as just Yves Tanguy (/ˌv tɒ̃ˈɡ/, French: [iv tɑ̃ɡi]), was a French surrealist painter.



Tanguy was the son of a retired navy captain, and was born January 5, 1900,[1] at the Ministry of Naval Affairs on Place de la Concorde in Paris, France.[2] His parents were both of Breton origin.[3] After his father's death in 1908, his mother moved back to her native Locronan, Finistère, and he ended up spending much of his youth living with various relatives.

In 1918, Tanguy briefly joined the merchant navy before being drafted into the Army, where he befriended Jacques Prévert. At the end of his military service in 1922, he returned to Paris, where he worked various odd jobs. 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.[4]

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.[5]

Through his friend Prévert, in around 1924 Tanguy was introduced into the circle of surrealist artists around André Breton. Tanguy quickly began to develop his own unique painting style, giving his first solo exhibition in Paris in 1927, and marrying his first wife Jeannette Ducrocq (b. 1896, d. 1977) later that same year. During this busy time of his life, Breton gave Tanguy a contract to paint 12 pieces a year. With his fixed income, he painted less and ended up creating only eight works of art for Breton.

In December 1930, at an early screening of Buñuel and Dalí's L'Age d'Or, right-wing activists went to the lobby of the cinema where the film was being screened, and destroyed art works by Dalí, Joan Miró, Man Ray, Tanguy, and others.

Throughout the 1930s, Tanguy adopted the bohemian lifestyle of the struggling artist with gusto, leading eventually to the failure of his first marriage.[6] He had an intense affair with Peggy Guggenheim in 1938 when he went to London with his wife Jeannette Ducrocq to hang his first retrospective exhibition in Britain at her gallery Guggenheim Jeune. The exhibition was a great success and Guggenheim wrote in her autobiography that "Tanguy found himself rich for the first time in his life". She purchased his pictures Toilette de L'Air and The Sun in Its Jewel Case (Le Soleil dans son écrin)[7] for her collection. Tanguy also painted Peggy two beautiful earrings.[8] The affair continued in both London and Paris and only finished when Tanguy met a fellow Surrealist artist who would become his second wife.[9]

In 1938, after seeing the work of fellow artist Kay Sage, Tanguy began a relationship which led to his second marriage. 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, on August 17, 1940. Their marriage proved durable but tense. Both drank heavily, and Tanguy assaulted Sage verbally and sometimes physically, pushing her and sometimes even threatening her with a knife privately and at social gatherings. Sage, according to friends' accounts, made no response to her husband's aggression.[10] 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.[11]

Mama, Papa is Wounded!, oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 28 3/4" (92.1 x 73 cm)

In January 1955, Tanguy suffered a fatal stroke at Woodbury. His body was cremated and his ashes preserved until Sage's death in 1963. Later, his ashes were scattered by his friend Pierre Matisse on the beach at Douarnenez in his beloved Brittany, together with those of his wife.[12]

Style and legacy


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.[citation needed]

According to Nathalia Brodskaïa, Mama, Papa is Wounded! (1927) is one of Tanguy's most impressive paintings. Brodskaïa writes that the painting reflects his debt to Giorgio de Chirico – falling shadows and a classical torso – and conjures up a sense of doom: the horizon, the emptiness of the plain, the solitary plant, the smoke, the helplessness of the small figures. Tanguy said that it was an image he saw entirely in his imagination before starting to paint it.[13] He also claimed he took the title of this and other works from psychiatric textbooks: "I remember spending a whole afternoon with ... André Breton," he said, "leafing through books on psychiatry in the search for statements of patients which could be used as titles for paintings." Jennifer Mundy, however, discovered that the title of this painting and several others were taken from a book about paranormal phenomena, Traité de metaphysique (1922) by Dr Charles Richet.[14]

Tanguy's style was an important influence on several younger painters, such as Roberto Matta, Wolfgang Paalen, Toyen, and Esteban Francés, who adopted a Surrealist style in the 1930s.[15] Later, Tanguy's paintings (and, less directly, those of de Chirico) influenced the style of the 1980 French animated movie Le Roi et l'oiseau, by Paul Grimault and Prévert.[16] Tanguy’s works also influenced the science fiction cover art of illustrator Richard Powers.


Tanguy's The Invisibles was a key plot point in the third episode of the second series of BBC Two comedy-drama There She Goes.[17]


Partial list of paintings





  • Cloud (1930) Private Collection
  • La Splendeur Semblable (1930)
  • Neither Legends Nor Figures (1930) Menil Collection, Houston
  • Clouds of Earth (The Man) (1930) Private Collection
  • Similar Resplendence (1930) Kunstmuseum, Basel
  • Tower of the West (1931) Kunstmuseum Winterthur
  • Promontory Palace (1931) Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
  • The Armoire of Proteus (1931) Private Collection
  • Four-Part Screen (The Firmament) (1932) Berardo Collection, Lisbon
  • The Heart of the Tower (1933) Private Collection
  • The Certitude of the Never-Seen (1933) The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Between the Grass and the Wind (1934) Private Collection
  • The End of the Rope (1934) Private Collection
  • I Am Waiting for You (1934) Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • The Passage of a Smile (1935) The Toledo Museum of Art
  • Échelles (1935) Manchester Art Gallery
  • The Meeting-Place of Parallels (1935) Kunstmuseum, Basel
  • Title Unknown (Metaphysical Landscape) (1935) Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
  • Palming (1935) Private Collection, Hamburg
  • The New Nomads (1935) John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota
  • The Geometer of Dreams (1935) Private Collection
  • Untitled (1935) Collection of Carlo F. Bilotti
  • Heredity of Acquired Characteristics (1936) Menil Collection, Houston
  • L’Extinction des Especes (1936)
  • From the Other Side of the Bridge (1936) Private Collection, New York
  • The Nest of the Amphioxus (1936) Museum of Grenoble
  • Treasures of the Sea (1936) Private Collection
  • Fragile (1936)
  • Way of Heredity (1936) Private Collection
  • The Air in Her Mirror (1937) Sprengel Museum, Hanover
  • Les Filles des Conséquences (1937)
  • The Doubter (The Interrogation) (1937) Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC
  • The Sun in its Jewel Case (1937) Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
  • Lingering Day (1937) Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris
  • Movements and Acts (1937) Smith College Museum of Art
  • Title Unknown (Landscape) (1938) Private Collection
  • Familiar Little Person (1938) Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris
  • Ennui and Tranquility (1938) Private Collection
  • Boredom and tranquillity (1938) The Jeffrey H. Loria Collection
  • Hidden Thoughts (My Hidden Thoughts) (1939) San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • If it Were (1939) Private Collection
  • La Rue aux Levres (1939)
  • The Furniture of Time (1939) The Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • The Great Nacre Butterfly (1939) Private Collection
  • Second Thoughts (1939) San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Satin Tuning-Fork (1939) Collection of Mr and Mrs Jacques Gelman






  1. ^ "UPI Almanac for Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019". United Press International. January 5, 2019. Archived from the original on January 5, 2019. Retrieved September 6, 2019. artist Yves Tanguy in 1900
  2. ^ Schalhorn 2001, p. 211.
  3. ^ "Yves Tanguy | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
  4. ^ Schalhorn 2001, p. 212.
  5. ^ Adamson, Natalie. (5 July 2017). Painting, politics and the struggle for the École de Paris, 1944-1964. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-55518-0. OCLC 1003859912.
  6. ^ Dalley, Jan (2019-11-01). "Peggy Guggenheim: surrealism in a cold climate". www.ft.com. Archived from the original on 2022-12-10. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
  7. ^ Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
  8. ^ Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
  9. ^ Out of this Century: Confessions of an Art Addict, Peggy Guggenheim, published by Andre Deutsch, London. 2005, pp179-189
  10. ^ Suther, Judith D. (1997). A House of Her Own: Kay Sage, Solitary Surrealist. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press. pp. 130–132. ISBN 0803242344.
  11. ^ Richter, Hans (1956). "Richter, Hans. "In Memory of Two Friends. Yves Tanguy, 1900-1956." College Art Journal, vol. 15, no. 4, 1956, pp. 343–346. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/772770". College Art Journal. 15 (4): 343–346. JSTOR 772770.
  12. ^ John Russell, Matisse, Father & Son, p.210, published by Harry N. Abrams, NYC. Copyright John Russell 1999, ISBN 0-8109-4378-6
  13. ^ Nathalia Brodskaïa, Surrealism, Parkstone International, 2012, p. 123.
  14. ^ Jennifer Mundy, 'Tanguy, Titles and Mediums', Art History. vol.6, no.2, June 1983, pp.199-213.
  15. ^ José Pierre, "Yves Tanguy", Oxford Art Online. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  16. ^ Martini, Paola; Pascale Ramel (12 December 2007). "Quelques propositions d'activités – "Le roi et l'oiseau"" [Some proposals for activities - "The King and the Mockingbird"] (PDF) (in French). artsvisuels.ia94.ac-creteil.fr. p. 4. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  17. ^ "BBC Two - There She Goes, Series 2, Episode 3". BBC Two. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  18. ^ "Instagram". www.instagram.com.


  • Acquavella, Nicholas M. and John Ashbery. 1974. Yves Tanguy. Acquavella Galleries, Inc. New York. unpaginated.
  • Anonymous. 2001. An Important Private Collection of Works by Yves Tanguy, May 10, 2001. Christie's New York. 72 pp.
  • Berggruen, Olivier. 2002. Yves Tanguy, Peintre De L’Illusion Métaphysique in Yves Tanguy, Malingue (2002), pp. 9–13.
  • Breton, André. 1942. What Tanguy Veils and Reveals. View 2(2): 4–7 pp.
  • Le Bihan, Rene, Mabin Renée & Sawin Martica. 2001. Yves Tanguy (French). Editions Palantines. ISBN 291143417X / ISBN 9782911434174
  • Le Bihan, René, Olivier Berggruen, and Jean-Jacques Lebel. 2002. Yves Tanguy (French). Galerie Malingue, Paris. 108 pp. ISBN 978-2951832305
  • Marchesseau, Daniel. 1973. Yves Tanguy (French). Éditions Filipacchi, Paris, 68 pp. [German Ed. 1974. Rembrandt-Verlag, Berlin]
  • Maur, Karin von. 2001. Yves Tanguy and Surrealism. Hatie Cantz Publications. Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany. 252 pp. ISBN 3-7757-0968-1 [with essays by *Susan Davidson, Konrad Klapheck, Gordon Onslow Ford, Andreas Schalhorn, and Beate Wolf].
  • Miller, Stephen Robeson and Jonathan Stuhlman. 2011. Double Solitaire: The Surreal Worlds of Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy. The Katonah Museum of Art and the Mint Museum with the Pierre Matisse Foundation, New York. 104 pp. ISBN 0983194211
  • Schalhorn, Andreas (2001). "Yves Tanguy 1900–55". In Karin von Maur (ed.). Yves Tanguy and Surrealism. Hatje Cantz. ISBN 3-7757-0968-1.
  • Soby, James Thrall. 1955. Yves Tanguy. Museum of Modern Art. New York, N. Y. 72 pp. (2nd Ed. 1977: ISBN 978-1299276611).
  • Wittrock, Wolfgang and Stanley W. Hayter. 1976. Yves Tanguy: The Graphic Work (German). Wittrock Kunsthandel, Düsseldorf. 62 pp.