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"Birthday" painting by surrealist Dorothea Tanning

"Birthday" painting by surrealist Dorothea Tanning

The death of Dorothea Tanning is a moment of enlightenment for me. I never knew she existed. I feel ignorant.

Known as ‘the last living Surrealist,’ Dorothea Tanning created paintings and sculptures and mingled with luminaries. Later in life, she focused on writing. Her works garnered strong reviews. 

In am era where most women were marginalized and not allowed to compete in business with their male counterparts, Dorothea Tanning flourished.

 

 

 

(excerpt from Joy Press, Los Angeles Times February 5, 2012)

Over more than a century, Dorothea Tanning collided and consorted with artistic titans of the 20th century who includedPablo PicassoJohn Cage and Joseph Cornell. She designed sets for George Balanchine ballets, played romantic matchmaker for poet Andre Breton and appeared in Hans Richter’s avant-garde films — but she remained best known as the wife of Surrealist Max Ernst, to whom she was married for nearly 30 years

Tanning, who was also a celebrated American artist and poet, and came to be known as “the last living Surrealist,” died Tuesday at her New York City home, according to theDorothea Tanning Collection and Archive, a foundation she established in 1995 to preserve her work. She was 101.

painting by Dorothea Tanning

painting by Dorothea Tanning

Several of her best-known paintings are on display through May at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art show “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States.” The “most riveting portrait” in the exhibition’s introductory gallery is “Birthday,” Tanning’s hyper-realist 1942 self-portrait, Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote last month. He called it “an image of awakening power.”

In “Birthday,” the artist presents herself as bare-breasted and bare-footed, grasping roots emerging from her skirt. Lurking at her feet is a mythical beast, a basilisk, “which could kill with just a puff of its poison breath,” Knight wrote. “Tanning seems capable of accomplishing the same with just a glance.”

 

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