Louis Thirion, Nancy
L'Oeil Gallery (George Bernier), Paris
Acquired from the above in September 1968
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1970 (on summer loan)
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Inc., Yves Tanguy, 1974, no. 7
Tanguy's career as a painter began in 1922 shortly after the artist saw an early Surrealist work by Giorgio de Chirico at Paul Guillaume's gallery. The impact of de Chirico's metaphysical landscapes was so great that Tanguy joined the Surrealist group in 1925, collaborating with André Breton in La Révolution Surréaliste. Though few of Tanguy's early works survive, those that do clearly allude to de Chirico's "Italian squares" of the same period. It was not until 1927 that Tanguy began painting the dream-like landscapes which would establish him as a major figure of the Surrealist movement. The present work, painted in 1928, is one of these rare canvases, and demonstrates the fantastical aesthetic which would characterize Tanguy's work for the rest of his career.
This early example of Tanguy's Surrealist landscapes already contains many of the distinctive elements which characterize the artist's signature "mind-scapes": the deep foreground plain and ambiguous horizon, the presence of objects floating in the silent air as well as the strange, biomorphic forms which may refer to the prehistoric monoliths and dolmens of the Brittany landscape that the artist knew as a child.
The haunting imagery of Tanguy's pictures derive from his experience growing up in Europe during the aftermath of World War I. Dilapidated buildings and piles of rubble were common sites throughout northern France, as was the bleak terrain of abandoned battlefields. These spectacles had a profound effect on Surrealist imagery, particularly for Tanguy, whose landscapes captured "the sense of the empty, abandoned, ghostly wasteland of the war-torn terrain" (Sidra Stich, Anxious Visions, Surrealist Art (exhibition catalogue), University Art Museum, University of California at Berkeley, 1990, p. 87).
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