Lot 89
  • 89

Yves Tanguy

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
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  • Yves Tanguy
  • signed Yves Tanguy, dated 42 and dedicated à Kay (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 58.5 by 80cm.
  • 23 by 31 1/2 in.


Kay Sage Tanguy (the artist's wife; a gift from the artist)
Frederick Richmond, USA (1951)
Richard Feigen Gallery, New York & Chicago (1963)
Acquired by the present owner in the 1970s


New York, The Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco, Museum of Art, European Artists in the United States, 1945, no. 45
Orlando, Morse Gallery of Art, Rollins College, 1946


Leonard Thiessen, The Morning Herald, Omaha, Nebraska, 30th June 1946, illustrated
Kay Sage Tanguy et al., Yves Tanguy. Un Recueil de ses oeuvres / A Summary of his Works, New York, 1963, no. 292, illustrated p. 133
Patrick Waldberg, Yves Tanguy, Brussels, 1977, illustrated p. 231

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1942, Les Survenants II exemplifies Tanguy's mature style, executed while he was living in America, where he moved shortly after the outbreak of World War II. Populated by evocative biomorphic shapes, this work is characteristic of the artist's enigmatic landscapes and abandoned fields representing an alternative, fantastic world that came to characterise Tanguy's oeuvre. After his move to America, Tanguy adopted the softer, more muted palette visible in the present painting: 'White and grey became favorite colors, and were used to bind and oppose his stronger hues - 'nasturtium, coq de roche, poplar leaf, rusty well-chain, cut sodium, slate, jelly-fish and cinnamon' as Breton once defined them' (quoted in J. T. Soby, Yves Tanguy (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1955, p. 19). The dynamic of the present composition is derived from the juxtaposition of the soft forms painted in grey tones, reminiscent of the grisaille technique, and the hard-edged precision of the smaller shapes coloured in bright primary tones.


Les Survenants II was a gift from Tanguy to his wife, the American painter, Kay Sage. Tanguy and Sage first met in Paris in 1938. In the following year Tanguy, the first Surrealist artist to move to the United States, joined Sage in New York. The two first lived in a modest apartment in Greenwich Village, where Matta and his wife were their neighbours, and the two couples saw each other regularly. Tanguy and Sage married in August 1940, and in the following year moved to Woodbury in Connecticut. Not far from New York, Woodbury had been long 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 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' (ibid., pp. 17 & 18).