Yves Tanguy - Surrealist Artist

by sockii

Yves Tanguy was an important artist of the surrealist movement. Learn more about his background, his work, and his legacy.

Yves Tanguy (1900-1955) was a surrealist artist who beguiled and intrigued many with his unique and haunting images, paintings unlike those of any other artist. Indeed, he is considered to represent the "purest strain" of surrealist painting, as the only great artist from the height of 1930s surrealism to be entirely self-taught. His work has inspired many others who have followed him, and still fascinates us today. Indeed, he is my favorite surrealist artist and one from whom I've drawn a great deal of inspiration throughout my own art career and explorations.

If you are unfamiliar with Yves Tanguy's work, looking for sources for his work on-line, or books and merchandise related to the artist, please read on.

Image above: Yves Tanguy poster print, available via Amazon. See below for product information.

Yves Tanguy

A Brief Biography

Raymond Georges Yves Tanguy was born in Paris, France on January 5, 1900. His father died when he was only 8 years old, after which his mother moved back to her native Locronan home and Tanguy spent most of his young years living with other family members. He joined the merchant navy at 18 and then drifted through various odd jobs before returning to Paris in 1922.

One day, while in Paris, he happened to stumble upon a painting by Giorgio de Chirico. The image so moved and shocked him that he decided to take up painting himself - despite having no background or training in art.Through a friend he would be introduced in 1924 to Andre Breton, a poet and writer who would become the founder of the surrealism movement. Tanguy would join the surrealists officially in 1925, and his first solo exhibition would take place two years later. By this time he was well on his way to developing his unique and original painting style. From fluid colors suggesting a strange or underwater landscape, enigmatic forms and creatures would emerge. These images were intriguing, sometimes even disturbing, suggesting familiar yet utterly alien forms, buildings and creatures under typically gloomy, oppressive skies.

In 1938 Tanguy would become involved romantically with fellow surrealist artist Kay Sage. At the outbreak of World War II, they moved back to her native New York and in 1940 would be married. Near the end of the war they settled in Woodbury, Connecticut, where they lived and painted together until Tanguy's fatal stroke in 1955, at the age of only 55. Sage would spend much of the rest of her life devoted to preserving her husband's legacy and promoting his work, but his death - combined with the creeping loss of her vision to cataracts - led her into deep depression. Kay Sage would commit suicide in 1963.

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A Discussion of the Work of Yves Tanguy and Wife Kay Sage

Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy Exhibition with curators Stephen Robeson Miller and Jonathan Stuhlman

Tour the highlights of a recent exhibition of these two surrealists' work.

Analyzing Yves Tanguy's Paintings and Techniques

Listen in to this insightful discussion of Tanguy's painting style and technique, and how it evolved and changed after he moved to the United States. Here you can also see some wonderful close-up images of the fine details and colors in his paintings.

Links for more information on Tanguy

Books on Yves Tanguy

Learn more about the surrealist artist

There are sadly few books currently available dedicated to Yves Tanguy, compared to some of the more "popular" surrealist artists out there. However, these are some titles I can recommend if you are interested in learning more and studying his artwork.

This is by far the one book I would recommend above all others for fans of Yves Tanguy's work. Beautiful color plates illustrate many of his most important and beguiling paintings. These wonderful reproductions are combined with insightful commentary on the artist's life and legacy.

A companion book to a joint exhibit of their work, exploring Sage's work had a considerable influence on Tanguy's which has not been thoroughly explored before.

Yves Tanguy Books on eBay

Search for old exhibit catalogs, the titles above, and more...

My Love for Yves Tanguy's Paintings

How it all began for me.

The GatekeeperOne of my early paintings inspired by Yves TanguyIn a way, my introduction to art was much like Tanguy's himself - inspired by the sight of one single painting that intrigued me so much, I just had to begin to paint. And in my case, it was a painting by Yves Tanguy.

As a young child, my mother had taken me to many of New York City's finest art museums: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, and of course The Museum of Modern Art.

But I was perhaps too young during those first early visits to really appreciate much of it at all, and I had forgotten much about them by the time I was in high school and more interested in music and reading than art.But then one day, I remember sitting at home in my room, browsing through a collection catalog from that MoMA visit years ago. Suddenly I found myself much more curious about the strange and bizarre landscapes, images and patterns in the artwork. As a teenager I thought it all looked pretty "cool." And then, near the end of the catalog, there was one image that just made me stop and stare, unable to turn the page and move on: Yves Tanguy's "Multiplication of The Arcs".

On the BeachAnother of my Tanguy-inspired worksI still can't explain exactly why, but that dense, bleak, uneasy image drew me in completely and I wanted to know more about it. I wanted to understand it. More than that, I wanted to create a world of my own inspired by what I saw in that painting.I started reading more about the surrealist artists, studying their works, wanting to go back to those museums I'd visited before to see them with fresh eyes. I then began drawing and painting my own "surrealist" landscapes and structures. Although my inspiration came from several different artists (including Dali, de Chirico, and O'Keefe), the one whom I always drew the deepest inspiration from was my beloved Tanguy.

I've since moved on to more of an interest in classical realist painting (after finally getting that art training and education I didn't have when I was younger), but I retain a deep love for Tanguy's works and never miss a chance to see a painting by him in a museum or city I'm visiting, when possible. Now I can appreciate not just the strange and mysterious beauty of his fantastical creations, but also the painstaking technique he used in creating these works, and his mastery as an artist even for someone who was entirely self-taught.

Thank you, Yves, for the inspiration - and for beginning me on my own journey into surrealist art!

Yves Tanguy - Art Prints and Posters on eBay

Thanks for visiting my page dedicated to Yves Tanguy. Are you a fan of his work, or of another surrealist artist? Your comments are welcome here!

Updated: 01/31/2017, sockii
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Mira on 07/16/2015

I really enjoyed your article and the video presentation. Nice Tanguy-inspired works you have there!

AngelaJohnson on 06/01/2015

I've never heard of Yves Tanguy but like what you've shown. I took art all four years in high school and was impressed with Salvadore Dali.

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