Tanning wanted to depict ‘unknown but knowable states’: to suggest there was more to life than meets the eye. She first encountered surrealism in New York in the 1930s. In the 1940s, her powerful self-portrait Birthday 1942 attracted the attention of fellow artist Max Ernst – they married in 1946.
Her work from this time combines the familiar with the strange, exploring desire and sexuality. From the 1950s, now working in Paris, Tanning’s paintings became more abstract, and in the 1960s she started making pioneering sculptures out of fabric. A highlight of the exhibition is the room-sized installation Chambre 202, Hotel du Pavot 1970-3. This sensual and eerie work features bodies growing out the walls of an imaginary hotel room.
In later life, Tanning dedicated more of her time to writing. Her last collection of poems, Coming to That, was published at the age of 101.
The exhibition surveys the seventy-year career of Dorothea Tanning (1910–2012), whose work always asks us to look beyond the obvious. As a young artist in 1930s New York she discovered surrealism and what she described as the ‘limitless expanse of POSSIBILITY’ it offered. The movement, which had emerged in Paris in the 1920s, explored the hidden workings of the mind as a source of art and writing. Working in the United States and France, Tanning took its ideas and imagery in new, distinctive directions. This exhibition focuses on key themes and developments in Tanning’s practice across her long and extraordinary career. It is a must see exhibition to take a different view on an artist's evolution!