Tag Archives: Dorothea Tanning

Dream of countless doors

There isn’t really such a thing as American Surrealism, not in the way of the European movement with manifestoes, ideals and even political agendas. The American avantgarde of the 1930s and 1940s took inspiration from surrealism’s technique but freely used it and combined it with other styles, without going much into the original intensions of the European movement.

Recommended listening while reading this post:


Birthday is a self-portrait, the background based on Dorothea Tanning’s New York apartment. In Tanning’s own words: “a dream of countless doors”

Dorothea Tanning – Birthday –  1942

Oil on canvas: 40 1/4 x 25 1/2 in.

Dorothea Tanning meet famous German painter Max Ernst late in 1942, after he had escaped Gestapo and relocated to America, they married in 1946.

They would have 34 years together, at first in Sedona, rual Arizona. Their presence helped begin what would become an artists colony. From mid-1950’s they lived and worked in France.

Max Ernst died on April 1 1976. Dorothea returned to the United States in the late 1970s, still painting.

Dorothea Tanning – Maternity – 1946-47
Oil on canvas – 56 x 48 in.


The mid 50’s saw Dorothea Tanning leave her Surrealism, moving in a direction descriped as prismatic. Form this point she would paint in different styles over the years, also making sculpture and in her later life books and poems.

Dorothea Tanning: Woman Artist, Nude, Standing

1985-87 – Oil on canvas – 63 3/4 x 51 3/16 in

Her words on the subject:

Women artists.  There is no such thing—or person. It’s just as much a contradiction in terms as “man artist” or “elephant artist.”  You may be a woman and you may be an artist; but the one is a given and the other is you.

About the music: Edgard Varèse: Arcana (1925–1927).

Just as with American Surrealism, there are no Surrealist Music that could be compared to the other Surrealistic artforms literature, film and painting, but there are composers using some surrealist techniques and ideas.

Edgard Varèse’s Arcana was inspired, as Varése wrote in 1925 to his wife, by a dream sequence.


Dorothea Tanning: Valse bleue – 1954 – Oil on canvas
51 3/16 x 38 3/16 in