- Yves Tanguy
- signed Yves Tanguy and dated 49 (lower right)
- oil on canvas
- 30.5 by 26cm.
- 12 by 10 1/4 in.
Private Collection, Milan (1963)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1978
Milan, Galleria del Naviglio, Yves Tanguy, 1953, illustrated in the catalogue
Rome, Galleria dell'Obelisco, Yves Tanguy, 1953
Patrick Waldberg, Yves Tanguy, Brussels, 1977, illustrated p. 271
To be included in the revised version of the Yves Tanguy Catalogue Raisonné currently in preparation by the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation.
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The iconography of Tanguy's painting was inspired by his childhood summers spent near Finistère in Brittany on the western coast of France, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It was there that he observed the expanses of the sea and the objects floating on water or washed up on the shores, elements that, subjectively transformed, frequently appear in the dream world of his mature œuvre. Painted in 1949, Lumen was executed while Tanguy 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.
After his move to America, Tanguy adopted a soft, muted palette visible in the present painting: 'In this country white and gray 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' (James Thrall Soby, Yves Tanguy (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1955, p. 19). Another characteristic of his paintings from this period is the disappearance of the horizon line, as the land and sky gradually merge into each other. Tanguy '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).