Lot 36
  • 36

Yves Tanguy

bidding is closed


  • Yves Tanguy
  • signed Yves Tanguy and dated 41 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 53.5 by 74cm.
  • 21 by 29 1/8 in.


Jacques Ulmann, Paris
Acquired from the family of the above by the present owner


New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Recent Paintings by Tanguy, 1942
Paris, Galerie Daniel Malingue, Yves Tanguy, 2002, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


André Breton, Yves Tanguy, New York, 1946, illustrated p. 56
Kay Sage Tanguy et al., Yves Tanguy. Un Recueil de ses œuvres / A Summary of his Works, New York, 1963, no. 273, illustrated p. 123
Patrick Waldberg, Yves Tanguy, Brussels, 1977, illustrated p. 196

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1941, Deux fois du noir is a seminal example of Tanguy's mature style, executed while he was living in America, where he moved shortly after the outbreak of World War II. Populated by a variety of elements evocative of biomorphic forms, rock formations and man-made objects, this work is characteristic of the artist's enigmatic landscapes representing an alternative, fantastic world that became the central subject of Tanguy's œuvre. The dynamic of the present composition is derived from the juxtaposition of the densely painted foreground occupied by these forms with the empty expanse of the background and the sky, representing a timeless, metaphysical space.


Tanguy was the first Surrealist artist to move to the United States in 1939, and was soon joined by a number of others fleeing occupied France. Having married the fellow painter Kay Sage in August 1940, in the following year Tanguy moved to Woodbury in Connecticut. Not far from New York, Woodbury had long been established as an artists' colony, and when Tanguy and Sage moved there, they were surrounded by a number of friends and artists including Alexander Calder, André Masson, Julien Levy and Arshile Gorky. In this lively artistic environment, manifold influences were established between European and American painters, most of whom exhibited at the avant-garde Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York. Tanguy's own art underwent a transformation as the artist embraced a striking, brighter palette evident in the present work, probably inspired by his move to the States, his relationship with and marriage to Kay Sage, and his new life as an American citizen.


In 1925, Tanguy was invited by André Breton to become a member of the Surrealist group. By 1927, he was a highly accomplished painter and in complete command of a new personal Surrealist language. Though Tanguy received no formal artistic training, his childhood summers spent near Finistère in Brittany, on the western coast of France overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, were to have a profound influence on his style that was to emerge by 1927, the year of his first one-man show at the Galerie Surréaliste in Paris. It was during these stays that Tanguy had observed prehistoric rock formations and objects floating on water or washed up on the shore, elements that, subjectively transformed, frequently appear in the dream world Tanguy celebrated as a mature painter. Also important was his trip to North Africa in 1930, where he observed natural geological structures and stratifications, that were to appear in his paintings.


James Thrall Soby wrote of the influences which lie behind the present work: 'After his African voyage, Tanguy usually substituted mineral forms for the vegetal ones used in earlier works. His color became more complex and varied, with extremes of light and dark replacing the relatively even tonality of his previous pictures. At the same time he made more and more frequent use of one of his most poetic inventions - the melting of land into sky, one image metamorphosed into another, as in the moving-picture technique known as lap-dissolve. The fixed horizon was now often replaced by a continuous and flowing treatment of space, and in many paintings of the 1930s and 1940s, it is extremely difficult to determine at what point earth becomes sky or whether objects rest on the ground or float aloft. The ambiguity is intensified by changes in the density of the objects themselves, from opaque to translucent to transparent, creating a spatial double entendre' (J. T. Soby, Yves Tanguy (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1955, pp. 17 & 18).


Indeed, the background of the present work is composed of a subtle gradation of various shades of blue, achieving the appearance described by Soby. The various shapes occupying the foreground are suggestive approximations of familiar forms, yet none of them can be identified as concrete or recognisable objects, which further emphasizes the enigmatic and unsettling effect of the composition. In its remarkable richness, complexity and precision of execution, Deux fois du noir is a truly outstanding example of Tanguy's Surrealist art.