Lot 23
  • 23

Yves Tanguy

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 GBP
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  • Yves Tanguy
  • signed Yves Tanguy and dated 41 (lower right)

  • oil on canvas

  • 53.5 by 74cm.
  • 21 by 29 1/8 in.


Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired in September or October 1941)
Comtesse de Montferrier (acquired from the above on 3rd October 1945)
Jacques Ulmann, Paris (acquired by 1963)
E. V. Thaw & Co., Inc., New York
Berggruen & Cie., Paris
Private Collection, France (acquired from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 19th June 2007, lot 36)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, In Memoriam: an Exhibition of Paintings for under $1000, 1942, no. 57 (titled as Poetic Landscape)
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings by Yves Tanguy, 1942, no. 7
Cincinnati, Cincinnati Modern Art Society, 12 Surrealists, 1943
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, European Artists in America, 1945, no. 127
Paris, Galerie Daniel Malingue, Yves Tanguy, 2002, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Rome, Complesso Monumentale del Vittoriano, Dada e Surrealismo Riscoperti, 2009-10, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


A. Everett Austin, Art News, no. 3, vol. 41, 1942, illustrated p. 12 (titled Poetic Landscape)
André Breton, Yves Tanguy, New York, 1946, illustrated p. 56
Pierre Matisse (ed.),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


The canvas is lined. There are scattered spots and strokes of retouching in the darker pigment of the foreground, an area of retouching in the sky in the upper left, and an area of retouching in the background in the lower left quadrant, visible under ultra-violet light. This work is in good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although the colours are slightly richer and the blues stronger in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Deux fois du noir exemplifies the refined and personal language with which Tanguy transformed the boundaries of Modernist painting. Tanguy was invited by André Breton to become a member of the Surrealist group in 1925 and two years later he was a highly accomplished painter in complete command of a new and 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 exhibition at the Galerie Surréaliste in Paris. It was during these stays that Tanguy had observed prehistoric rock formations and objects floating on the 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.

When he painted the current work in 1942, Tanguy had recently arrived in New York and married the American Surrealist painter, Kay Sage. The formal complexities of his work from the 1930s entered a new maturity during his time in New York during the 1940s. His forms became more complex in their refinement and the horizon lines which had supported his earlier works gave way to atmospheric perspective.

James Thrall Soby wrote of the particular splendour of the artist's works from this period: '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 in Yves Tanguy (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1955, pp. 17-18).

Tanguy's pictorial forms are unique in the canon of Surrealist art, amorphous yet somehow recognisable to the viewer. Pierre Matisse, the artist's dealer in New York, commented in 1942: 'Until Tanguy, the object, whatever external shocks it had undergone, remained in the last analysis a distinct prisoner of its own identity. With Tanguy we enter for the first time a world of total latency...' (P. Matisse, op. cit., p. 16). The objects which inhabit the ambiguous space of Deux fois du noir indeed seem reliant upon objective reality and yet far removed from any specific reference. With a refined sense of mystery, Tanguy presents in the current work a brilliant hyper-reality that embodies the aims of the Surrealist movement.  


Fig. 1, Yves Tanguy, Le Palais aux rochers de fenêtres, 1942, oil on canvas, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Fig. 2, Yves Tanguy, Divisibilité indéfinie, 1942, oil on canvas, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Fig. 3,  Yves Tanguy in New York, 1942. Photograph by Georges Platt Lynes. Courtesy Galerie 1900-2000, Paris