Dorothea Tanning was born in Galesburg, Illanois in 1910. She moved to New York in 1935 where she worked as a commercial artist. In the same year she saw the exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art and immediately recognised her affinity with this kind of work. She was signed in 1941 by Julien Levy, pioneering art dealer for surrealism, and introduced by him to the Surrealists, newly arrived in New York. At that time she met Max Ernst whom she married in 1946. They moved to France in 1953 where she remained until returning to New York in 1980.
Tannings powerful, erotically charged work, presents a kind of alternative universe, peopled with mythical beings, often part human, part animal or object, engaged in enigmatic dramas. It evokes the terrors and delights of childhood imaginings and seems to operate at the interface between reality and dreams. Although the themes and concerns of her paintings have remained constant, the precision and detail of her earlier work gradually gives way to a more exuberant and liberated style which fully conveys Tanning’s energy and painterly skills.
The exhibition was organised by Malmö Konsthall in close collaboration with the artist. It comprises a selection of paintings, soft sculpture and works on paper made over the last five decades, from the famous self-portrait Birthday, 1942, which may be said to have launched her career, right up to the very latest collages and drawings. This will be Tanning’s first solo exhibition in a public gallery in Britain and provides a long-overdue opportunity to gain an overview of the work of this remarkable artist.
The London showing has been made possible by the generosity of an anonymous donor, with additional support from the Elephant Trust and invaluable help and advice from Claus Runkel.