It was not until 1927 that Tanguy started painting the dream-like landscapes that would establish him as a major figure of the Surrealist movement. The present work, executed in 1944, contains many of the distinctive qualities that characterise the artist’s signature ‘mind-scapes’. Key sources of Tanguy's imagery were the summers he spent near Finistère in Brittany as a child. It was during these stays that Tanguy observed prehistoric rock formations and objects floating on water or washed up on the shore, elements which, when subjectively transformed, frequently appear in the dream world of Tanguy's painting.
The haunting imagery of Tanguy's works stem from his experience growing up in Europe during the First World War War. Dilapidated buildings, piles of rubble and the bleak terrain of abandoned battlefields were common sites throughout northern France. These spectacles had a significant effect on Surrealist imagery, particularly for Tanguy, whose landscapes capture ‘the sense of 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, Berkeley, 1990, p. 87).
A slow and scrupulous craftsman, Tanguy loved objects that were beautifully made, and he impaired to the elements in his paintings the same care and convincing presence that a realist painter gives to a still life or landscape. Tanguy depicts the ‘inscapes’ of the mind, represented here as a vast landscape of the imagination with indecipherable protozoan inhabitants, seemingly balanced on the brink between order and chaos. Tanguy stated the following: ‘The element of surprise in the creation of a work of art is, to me, the most important factor-surprise to the artist himself as well as to others. I work very irregularly and by crises. Should I see the reasons for my painting, I would feel that it would be a self-imprisonment’ (quoted in ‘The creative process’ in Art Digest, New York, 15th January 1954, vol. 28, no.8 p. 14).
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