Yves Tanguy

John Florens | Dec 22, 2023

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Yves Tanguy (Paris, January 5, 1900 - Woodbury (Connecticut), January 15, 1955) was a French painter. Almost all of his paintings belong to the surrealism movement.

Tanguy was born in Paris; his parents were of Breton descent. At age 18, he joined the French merchant fleet as a sailor. From age 20 to 22, he served as a conscript in the French infantry. After completing his military service, he led a vagabond life constantly changing jobs. His life took a drastic turn when in 1924, by chance, he saw a painting by Italian surrealist Giorgio de Chirico hanging on the wall. Tanguy, who until then had never held a brush, instantly fell in love with painting and he immediately began to paint himself.

Tanguy did not follow any training but was an autodidact who managed to acquire a high level of oil painting within a year. In 1925, he participated in an exhibition and not much later he got in touch with the Surrealist Society, a club that included other painters such as Salvador Dali, Joan Miró and Max Ernst. Tanguy also got a contract with the famous critic and art dealer André Breton. Tanguy received a fixed salary if he produced 12 paintings a year, these paintings then went to Breton who then sold them.

Unfortunately, Tanguy failed to reach the minimum of 12 paintings. This was mainly due to Tanguy's small apartment in which only one painting could dry at a time. In fact, Tanguy used the glazing technique, a technique in which the paint, applied layer by layer, had to dry first. Moreover, Tanguy was known as a possessed perfectionist who was completely absorbed in the details of his paintings. When Tanguy had finished only eight paintings by the end of the year, Breton broke the contract. From then on, Tanguy refused to do any more commercial work and opted for a bohemian lifestyle.

In the 1930s, Surrealism began to decline in popularity, and Tanguy's reputation as a painter declined. In 1938, he married American artist Kay Sage. This prompted the Tanguy to emigrate to the United States, a country where Surrealism was still popular. In the United States, Tanguy experienced his most successful and productive period. During this time, he also produced his most famous works. Tanguy died in 1955 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Tanguy produced virtually stylistically identical paintings throughout his career. He had developed an entirely unique way of painting with which he differed substantially from the other surrealists. While the other surrealists chose to combine existing objects and highly recognizable figures in strange ways, Tanguy chose completely abstract objects. Tanguy's paintings, incidentally, are not abstract, but rather a highly figurative and extremely realistically painted rendering of an abstract representation.

A painting by Tanguy often consists of a huge flat landscape, often a kind of desert, where the horizon is very blurred. This makes the landscape seem to be endlessly distant. For the landscape, Tanguy uses only one type of color, often gray and brown. Through the many transitions from light to dark, he manages to create an enormous depth in the landscape. In the immense empty landscape are all kinds of strange objects, figures or abstract objects. The shapes of these objects range from smooth and round to angular and elongated. Placing large objects in the foreground and smaller ones in the background again creates enormous depth. The figures often have bright colors making them stand out against the background, often they also have extremely long shadows.

Any attempt to analyze the shapes is doomed to failure because Tanguy made the objects appear entirely from the subconscious of the mind. While making the sketch, he often drew the forms with his eyes closed, without thinking about them. Therefore, there is no other meaning behind them. Very occasionally shapes can be recognized, such as a fishing pole or an amoeba, but this resemblance, according to Tanguy, was based on mere coincidence.


  1. Yves Tanguy
  2. Yves Tanguy
  3. ^ "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
  4. a b BnF források (francia nyelven). (Hozzáférés: 2019. szeptember 4.)
  5. a b Internet Speculative Fiction Database (angol nyelven). (Hozzáférés: 2017. október 9.)
  6. dont il aperçoit, en 1923, d'une plateforme d'autobus, dans une vitrine le tableau « Le Cerveau de l'enfant ». Il saute du bus en marche pour le voir de plus près, reproduisant sans le savoir la même réaction qu'a eu André Breton quelques années plus tôt (Angliviel, page 173).
  7. René Passeron, Encyclopédie du Surréalisme, éd. Somogy, 1975 p. 241
  8. Collectif, Alberto Giacometti, catalogue d'exposition, Centre Pompidou, 2001.
  9. 1,0 1,1 Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη της Γαλλίας: (Γαλλικά) καθιερωμένοι όροι της Εθνικής Βιβλιοθήκης της Γαλλίας. 120276215. Ανακτήθηκε στις 4  Σεπτεμβρίου 2019.
  10. 2,0 2,1 (Αγγλικά) Internet Speculative Fiction Database. 25285. Ανακτήθηκε στις 9  Οκτωβρίου 2017.

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