In her own words...


Dorothea Tanning was born in 1910 in Galesburg, Illinois and attended Knox College in her hometown before studying painting in Chicago (haunting the Art Institute where she learned what painting was.)   In 1941, now in New York, she met the art dealer, Julien Levy, and his surrealist friends, refugees from Nazi occupied France. Late in 1942 Max Ernst visited her studio, saw a painting, (Birthday), and stayed to play chess. They would have 34 years together, at first in Sedona, Arizona (a mere outpost at the time).  Here she would continue to paint her enigmatic versions of life on the inside, looking out: The Guest Room, The Truth About Comets, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Interior with Sudden Joy, Insomnias, Palaestra, Tamerlane, Far From. By 1956 Max and Dorothea had chosen to live and work thenceforth in France. Though Paris was headquarters, they preferred the country quiet lure in Touraine and Provence. These years included, for Dorothea Tanning, an intense five‐year adventure in soft sculpture: CousinsDon Juan's BreakfastFetishRainy Day CanapéTragic TableVerbXmasEmmaRevelation or the End of the Month, Hôtel du Pavot Room 202.

Max Ernst died on April 1, 1976 and Dorothea faced a solitary future. “Go home,” said the paint tubes, the canvases, the brushes. Returning to the United States in the late 1970s, and still painting, Tango LivesWoman ArtistOn AvalonDoor 84Still in the StudioBlue MomDionysos S.O.S., she gave full rein to her long felt compulsion to write.  Words, poetry.  Written, read, heard.  Would she join these voices even then? Her poems have since appeared in a number of literary reviews and magazines, such as The Yale ReviewPoetryThe Paris ReviewThe New YorkerThe Boston ReviewThe Southwest ReviewParnassus, and in Best Poems of 2002 and 2005. Her published works include two memoirs, Birthday and Between Lives, a collection of poems, A Table of Content, and a novel, Chasm.

At present Dorothea Tanning lives in New York City, breathes words, as well as air, and looks at her paintings with amazement. It is 2009.

About the artist


Dorothea Tanning died at her home in New York City on January 31, 2012.  She was 101 years old, and had just published her second collection of poems, Coming to That (Graywolf Press, 2011).


 

Dorothea Tanning with her mother, Amanda Tanning

Dorothea Tanning with her mother, Amanda Tanning, 1911

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Dorothea Tanning

Dorothea Tanning, 1915

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Dorothea Tanning, Galesburg High School Yearbook, Senior Year

Dorothea Tanning, Galesburg High School Yearbook, Senior Year, 1926

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Dorothea Tanning

Dorothea Tanning, 1928

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Dorothea Tanning

Dorothea Tanning, 1935

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Dorothea Tanning, San Francisco

Dorothea Tanning, San Francisco, 1937

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Dorothea Tanning, New York, 1938

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Dorothea Tanning

Photograph by Man Ray, 1942

© Man Ray Trust

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Dorothea Tanning, Sedona, Arizona

Dorothea Tanning, Sedona, Arizona, 1943

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Dorothea Tanning, Great River, Long Island

Dorothea Tanning, Great River, Long Island, 1944

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Dorothea Tanning, Amagansett, New York

Photograph by Robert Motherwell, 1945

© Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA, New York.

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Dorothea Tanning

Photograph by Man Ray, 1946

© Man Ray Trust

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Dorothea Tanning

Photograph by Man Ray, 1946

© Man Ray Trust

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Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst, Sedona, Arizona

Photograph by Lee Miller, 1946

© Lee Miller Archives

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Dorothea Tanning, Sedona, Arizona

Photograph by Lee Miller, 1946

© Lee Miller Archives

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Dorothea Tanning in her studio, Sedona, Arizona

Photograph by Lee Miller, 1946

© Lee Miller Archives

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Dorothea Tanning, Sedona, Arizona

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1947

© Estate of Henri Cartier-Bresson / SAIF, Paris / VAGA, New York.

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Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with his sculpture, <i>Capricorn</i>

Photograph by John Kasnetsis, 1947

© John Kasnetsis

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Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Irving Penn, 1947

© The Irving Penn Foundation

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Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Irving Penn, 1947

© The Irving Penn Foundation

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Dorothea Tanning

Photograph by Robert Bruce Inverarity, 1948

Robert Bruce Inverarity Papers, ca. 1840-1997, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

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Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning

Photograph by Robert Bruce Inverarity, 1948

Robert Bruce Inverarity Papers, ca. 1840-1997, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

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Dorothea Tanning

Photograph by Man Ray, 1948

© Man Ray Trust

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Dorothea Tanning, Paris

Photograph by Lee Miller, 1950

© Lee Miller Archives

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Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst, Honolulu

Photograph by Kay Bell, 1952

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Dorothea Tanning, Huismes, France

Photograph by Lee Miller, 1955

 © Lee Miller Archives

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Still from Hans Richter's film <i>8 x 8</i>

Still from Hans Richter's film 8 x 8, 1957

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Dorothea Tanning

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1957

© Estate of Henri Cartier-Bresson / SAIF, Paris / VAGA, New York.

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Dorothea Tanning in her studio, Huismes, France

Photograph by Alexander Liberman, 1959

Alexander Liberman Photography Archive, The Getty Research Institute,
Los Angeles (2000.R.19)

© J. Paul Getty Trust

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Dorothea Tanning in her studio, Huismes, France

Photograph by Alexander Liberman, 1959

Alexander Liberman Photography Archive, The Getty Research Institute,
Los Angeles (2000.R.19)

© J. Paul Getty Trust

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Dorothea Tanning in her studio, Huismes, France

Photograph by Alexander Liberman, 1959

Alexander Liberman Photography Archive, The Getty Research Institute,
Los Angeles (2000.R.19)

© J. Paul Getty Trust

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Photographer unknown, from Michael Ochs Archives

Photographer unknown, from Michael Ochs Archives, 1960

© Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

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Dorothea Tanning, Huismes, France

Photographer unknown, 1960

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Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst, Huismes, France

Photograph by Claude Huston, 1961

© Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

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Dorothea Tanning in her studio, Paris

Photographer unknown, 1968

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Dorothea Tanning, Paris

Photograph by André Morain, 1971

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Dorothea Tanning in Seillans, France

Photograph by Max Ernst, 1973

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Dorothea Tanning in Seillans, France

Photograph by Max Ernst, 1973

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Dorothea Tanning, Paris

Photograph by Jean-Pierre Couderc, 1974

© Jean-Pierre Couderc / Roger-Viollet / The Image Works

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Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning

Photograph by Andy Warhol, 1975

© 2013 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Dorothea Tanning, Stockholm

Photograph by Kjell Johansson, 1978

© Kjell Johansson

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Dorothea Tanning

Photograph by Jack Nisberg, 1979

© Jack Nisberg / Roger-Viollet / The Image Works

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Dorothea Tanning, Paris

Photograph by Marion Kalter, 1981

© Marion Kalter

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Dorothea Tanning. New York

Photograph by Hans Namuth, 1986

Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona

©1991 Hans Namuth Estate

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Hans Namuth, 1986

Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona

©1991 Hans Namuth Estate

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Arnold Newman, 1988

© Arnold Newman Archives / Licensed by Getty Images (Arnold Newman Collection)

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Arnold Newman, 1988

© Arnold Newman Archives / Licensed by Getty Images (Arnold Newman Collection)

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Dorothea Tanning in her studio, New York

Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe, 1989

© Brigitte Lacombe

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by wowe (Wolfgang Wesener), 1990

© Wolfgang Wesener

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by wowe (Wolfgang Wesener), 1990

© Wolfgang Wesener

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Dorothea Tanning in her studio, New York

Photograph by wowe (Wolfgang Wesener), 1990

© Wolfgang Wesener

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Ashkan Sahihi, 1990

© Ashkan Sahihi

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Ashkan Sahihi, 1990

© Ashkan Sahihi

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Dorothea Tanning, Key West

Photograph by Denise Hare, 1993

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Dorothea Tanning, Key West

Photograph by Denise Hare, 1993

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Peter Ross, 1998

© Peter Ross

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Peter Ross, 1998

© Peter Ross

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Peter Ross, 1998

© Peter Ross

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Sylvia Plachy, 2001

© Sylvia Plachy 2010

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Sylvia Plachy, 2001

© Sylvia Plachy 2010

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Sylvia Plachy, 2001

© Sylvia Plachy 2010

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Dorothea Tanning, New York

Photograph by Chester Higgins Jr., 2002

© Chester Higgins Jr. / The New York Times

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