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De Chirico operned the door of oneiric world to him and Breton’s psychic automatism provided him with the phosphorescent key to explore and reveal unknown mental landscapes. – A. Schwartz on Tanguy
Yves Tanguy was born in Paris in 1900, the son of a merchant marine captain. While attending the Lycée in his teens, he met Pierre Matisse, a lifelong friend and eventually his dealer. In fact, before deciding to become a painter, he worked as a sailor on cargo ships to South America and Africa. After doing his military service in Tunis, he returned to Paris in 1922 where he first saw the art of De Chirico.
Self-taught, Tanguy joined the surrealist movement in 1925 at the behest of André Breton, who would later declare him the only true, untainted Surrealist. His mature style evolved very quickly and, in 1927, he had his first one-man show, drawing the titles from a metaphysical tome in a specific attempt to disorient his viewers. That same year he married Jeanne Ducrocq.
Visiting Africa again in 1929, he became intrigued with some strange rock formations, which subsequently became such an important part of his imagery. He exhibited extensively in the 1930s in solo and group Surrealist shows in Paris, New York, London and Brussels. In 1939, Tanguy met the American painter, Kay Sage, and married her shortly afterwards.
With the fall of Paris, they left for the United States, settling in Connecticut where he became the protagonist of American Surrealism. He was fascinated on a trip to the South West to discover actual geography so similar to the boundless, desolate landscapes that he continued to paint. In 1942, he participated in the Artists in Exile show at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York and continued showing there regularly.
After the war, Tanguy took part in the show Le Surréalisme en 1947 organized at the Galerie Maeght by Breton and Marcel Duchamp. He became an American citizen in 1948 and returned to Europe in 1953 to visit Rome, Milan and Paris where he was having solo exhibitions.
He died at home in Woodbury, Connecticut of a brain haemorrhage just days after his fifty-fifth birthday. Eight months later his work was the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.