Tag Archive | surrealism

Modern Art Monday Presents: Painting of Unknown Title By Yves Tanguy

yves tangy title unknown photo by gail worley

Yves Tanguy’s debt to the still and imaginative landscapes of the Italian Surrealist Giorgio de Chirico is apparent in this work’s perplexing array of imagery that includes a small school of fish and child flattened by a cart. The plain white tower in the background — a favorite iconographic motif of de Chirico — secures the connection between the two artists. The title of this fun painting from 1926 is unknown

Photographed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Emma Van Name By Joshua Johnson

emma van name by joshua johnson photo by gail worley
Photo By Gail

This compelling portrait of a Baltimore toddler picking berries from a surreally-scaled goblet is an icon of the American vernacular painting. Joshua Johnson, who was self taught, is the earliest known African American painter to make his living from his art. Emma Van Name (1805) is his most ambitious and engaging portrait of an individual child. Revealing the hallmarks of Johnson’s characteristic style in its naturalistic precision and imaginative flair, the painting is distinguished by a bravura demonstration of his talents in its nuanced palette, compositional complexity, and deft handling of details, especially in the child’s dress and demeanor.

Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Charles Sheeler, The Artist Looks at Nature

the artist looks at nature photo by gail worley
Photo By Gail

Contrary to its title, this intriguing and enigmatic self-portrait, The Artist Looks at Nature (1943),  shows the artist ignoring the brightly lit landscape in front of him. Nature, as depicted here, is surreal, with inexplicable discrepancies of scale and perspective. The fields suggest the terrain around Sheeler’s Connecticut home, while the massive walls recall Hoover Dam, which the artist photographed in 1939. In the painting, Sheeler works intently on a monochromatic drawing of an antiquated stove, which is based on a photograph he took in 1917. Yet despite these deliberate references to his own work, the painting’s meaning is ambiguous. Perhaps Sheeler wished to evoke the many vistas open to an artist, the literal and figurative landscapes of the mind.

Photographed in the Art Institute, Chicago.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Giorgio De Chirico, The Philosopher’s Conquest

the philosophers conquest photo by gail worley
Photo By Gail

Giorgio de Chirico’s work represents an unexpected form of classicism in early avant-garde painting. The Philosopher’s Conquest  (191314), one of six in a series, combines a Mediterranean cityscape with familiar still-life objects that appear in many of the artists’s paintings, including a classical arcade, a cannon and cannonballs, a clock, chimney and a train. The stage set is an Italian piazza, virtually deserted except for the menacing, shadowy figures outside the edge of the scene. Rendered with a matter-of-fact — though intentionally crude — precision, de Chirico’s paintings seem rife with meaning but are resolutely enigmatic. Indeed, by juxtaposing incongruous objects, he sought to produce a metaphysical art, one that “resembles . . . the restlessness of myth.”

Photographed in The Art Institute, Chicago.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Salvador Dali, The Little Theater

salvador dali the little theater photo by gail worley
All Photos By Gail

This illuminated diorama-like construction contains eleven, parallel painted-glass panels. Both pictorial illusion and actual depth produce a sense of receding space, from the proscenium arch of the front panel to the sky on the furthest, with various bizarre objects, figures and scenarios sandwiched in- between.

salvador dali the little theater photo by gail worley

This unusual work may have been Dali’s attempt to recreate “a large, square box” he had seen as a boy: “It was a kind of optical theater, which provided me with the greatest measure of illusion of my childhood. I have never been able to determine or reconstruct  in my mind exactly what art was like.

salvador dali the little theater photo by gail worley

Salvador Dali’s The Little Theater (1934) Was Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Joseph Cornell, Taglioni’s Jewel Casket

Joseph Cornell Taglionis Jewel Casket By Gail Worley
All Photos By Gail

The first of dozens of boxes Joseph Cornell made in honor of famous ballerinas, Taglioni’s Jewel Casket (year) pays homage to Marie Taglioni, an acclaimed 19th-century Italian dancer. According to legend, Taglioni kept an imitation ice cube in her jewelry box to commemorate dancing in the snow at the behest of a Russian highwayman (a traveling thief). The box is infused with erotic undertones — both in the tactile nature of the materials (glass cubes, velvet, and a rhinestone necklace purchased at a Woolworth’s dime store in New York) and in the incident itself, in which Taglioni reportedly performed on an animal skin placed across the snowy road.

Joseph Cornell Taglionis Jewel Casket Photo By Gail Worley

Although he spent his entire artistic career living and working in Queens, New York, Cornell drew inspiration from the European art he saw at the Julien Levy Gallery — the first in the United States to exhibit Surrealist work — and he often inspired the European Surrealists in turn. In a press release for a 1939 exhibition of Cornell’s work at the Levy Gallery, Salvador Dalí heralded it as “the only truly Surrealist work to be found in America.”

Joseph Cornell Taglionis Jewel Casket By Gail Worley

Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Modern Art Monday Presents: René Magritte, Time Transfixed

Time Transfixed
Photo By Gail

Surrealism was identified by its proponents as a way of reuniting the conscious and unconscious realms of experience so that the world of dream and fantasy could be joined to the everyday rational world — or what one critic called “an absolute reality, a surreality.” René Magritte accomplished this by merging dreamlike imagery and naturalistic detail, as in his iconic canvas Time Transfixed (1938). He also worked carefully on his titles, and he was ultimately unhappy with the English translation of the title of this painting. The original French, La Durée Poignardée, literally means “ongoing time stabbed by a dagger.” Magritte hoped that when his patron Edward James purchased this painting, he would install it at the bottom of his staircase so that the train would “stab” guests on their way to James‘ ballroom. In an ironic twist, he hung it over his fireplace, to Magritte’s great dissatisfaction.

Photographed in The Art Institute, Chicago.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Rene Magritte, On The Threshold of Liberty

Rene Magritte On The Threshold of Liberty
Photo By Gail

One of Surrealism’s most important patrons, Edward James, was a willing collaborator whose sense of play initiated commissions for his homes from such artists as Salvador Dali and Leonora Carrington. James was impressed with the work of Rene Magritte, which was displayed in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London, so he invited the artist to paint three decorative canvases for the ballroom of his London home. Magritte painted On The Threshold of Liberty during his stay there in 1937, as the centerpiece of the three works. Originally set behind two-way mirrors, the works would become visible when James changed the lighting, provoking what he called “a profound sensation.”

Photographed in the Art Institute, Chicago.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Yves Tanguy, He Did What He Wanted

He Did What He Wanted
Photo By Gail

He Did What He Wanted (1927) was included in Yves Tanguy’s first solo show at the Galerie Surréaliste, Paris, in 1927. Before the exhibition opened, Tanguy and Surrealist leader André Breton invented titles for the paintings based on a 1922 book called Treaty of Metapsychics by Charles Richet, a Nobel Prize winner for medicine, which explored mysterious forms of cognition — a subject that resonated with the Surrealist interest in the unconscious and in dream states. The title of this work refers to a phenomenon Richet describes in which hypnotized subjects refuse to obey external commands. In early works, such as this one, Tanguy defined his signature style: a vaguely geological, otherworldly terrain strewn with symbols and enigmatic creatures. His biomorphic forms, rendered with a painterly treatment of surface that approaches abstraction, had a profound impact on postwar painters such as Matta and Arshile Gorky.

Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Wilhelm Freddie, Sex-Paralysappeal

Sex Paralysappeal
Photos By Gail

In line with other surrealist artists’ engagements with the ready-made, Wilhelm Freddie’s objets-mannequins, such as Sex-Paralysappeal (1936, shown here as a 1961 artist’s copy) were scandalous in their day for their explicit references to sex. With a prominently painted penis, both the 1936 and 1961 versions of this work were confiscated by the Danish authorities soon after they were exhibited.

Sex Paralysappeal
Installation View

In Sex-Paralysappeal, Freddie transforms the classical bust into a surrealist object by treating it like a mannequin head and adorning it with various accessories. Placing the head inside an incomplete picture frame, he indicates the desire for the image to become dimensional, more lifelike. The work’s composite title vacillates between sex appeal and paralysis, amplifying the incongruity of its constituent elements.

Photographed in The Met Breuer as Part of the Exhibit, Like Life: Sculpture Color and The Body.