Ripley Auctions

Lot 197

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Description: Dorothea Tanning
(American, 1910-2012)
Track and Field, 1982
watercolor and pencil on paper
signed lower right.

Provenance: Simms Fine Art, New Orleans, Kent Fine Art, New York, Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart, Indiana.

Biography from the archives of AskArt:
Born in Galesburg, Illinois to Swedish parents, Dorothea Tanning became a leading Surrealist painter. Her work focuses on sensuality, fantasy, and also explores the unconscious and the irrational. She has lived a long life and continued in her early 90s to make paintings and sculpture, now concentrating on writing and publishing poetry. She had more recognition in France than America; a major solo exhibition in her own country was in November, 2000 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

At a youngster, she showed art talent and later said that by the time she was age seven, she had dedicated herself to being an artist. She was bored by school and did much of her learning by reading books at the local library. She attended Knox College in Galesburg but hated that environment, writing later that the two things that dominated academic life were the Saturday football games and the Greek Societies of which each "was a kind of mini Ku Klux Klan"...(Tanning 23). After two years in college, she quit, traveled and then settled in New York City, where, to the dismay of her conservative Lutheran parents, she established a Bohemian lifestyle.

Living in that big city, Tanning studied Hindu dance and philosophy, was an "extra" at the Metropolitan Opera, and became a member of the Surrealist group that exhibited at the Julian Levy Gallery. Levy became a great admirer of her fantasy paintings. She also produced stage and costume designs for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo and the New York City Ballet.

In 1939, having been much inspired by the Museum of Modern Art exhibit "Fantastic Art, Dada, and Surrealism" (1936), she moved to Paris, taking with her letters of introduction to Picasso and Max Ernst ("the grand master of surrealism") and other avant-garde artists of that city. However, Paris was in turmoil because of the looming war, and discouraged, she returned to New York and worked as a commercial artist.

To her great pleasure, she discovered that many members of the French artistic group had moved to New York and were establishing a community of Surrealists, which she joined. Peggy Guggenheim, then married to Max Ernst, invited Tanning to exhibit in a 1943 show titled "31 Women" and sent her husband to pick up Tanning's entry. Thus began a relationship that caused Guggenheim to lose her husband and later say "I should only have had thirty women in the show." (Rubinstein 294)

In 1946, in a double wedding with Man Ray and Juliette Browner, Ernst and Tanning married and remained together until his death in 1976. Shortly after the marriage, they moved to Sedona, Arizona where they built a house and lived until 1952, when they moved to France. Tanning admitted that her happy marriage to Ernst and her devotion to him detracted from her career, but she voiced no resentment, stating that they lived "without shadows." (295) She returned to New York in 1980, and has lived and worked there for the remainder of her life.
17 1/2" x 25" (image), 25 1/2"H x 32"W (frame).

  • Dimensions: 17 1/2" x 25" (image), 25 1/2"H x 32"W (frame).
  • Artist Name: Dorothea Tanning
  • Medium: watercolor and pencil on paper

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September 26, 2020, 11:00 AM EST

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