In her own words...

Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity. I don't see a different purpose for it now.
                 – Dorothea Tanning, 2002

Notes for an Apocalypse, 1978
Oil on canvas, 50 x 62 in.
The Museum of Modern Art, NY



Back then, with time on my hands
and in our back yard, I waited for the future.
The Future. For me as for everyone else,
the very words had a whiff of promise.
If things were not going too well at present

they would surely delight us in the future.
Long in coming, the future, it never came
to the back yard, front yard, palace yard,
church yard, prison yard, and especially
the junk yard that prefers the past.

Later I understood that waiting is an art
and the best place to practice it is in waiting
rooms where you can wait for hours on end
for the train you've already missed, for the
sky to fall, the doctor, for hell to freeze over.

The sky hangs higher than ever and
at night is studded with stars
"The Doctor had an emergency.
He'll be here tomorrow."
And hell? Nobody goes there anymore.

Still later, when I was more in touch with
the world, they told me, "You have a future."
I thought that over. Even if I believed them,
what did my little future, whatever that was,
have to do with the real thing, whatever that is?

Surely this everywhere present is real
enough and eager, yet unable, to tell me
what I am waiting for now.

                 – Dorothea Tanning, 2011


The Dorothea Tanning Foundation together with its partner The Destina Foundation wish everyone good health and safety during this difficult time. As many museums temporarily close to protect the public against COVID-19, we encourage you to enjoy their art and exhibitions through their websites, video tours, and publications.  The following are some of the current and upcoming exhibitions that feature the work of Dorothea Tanning:

"Dorothea Tanning: Worlds in Collision" at Alison Jacques Gallery in London has been extended for online viewing while the Gallery remains closed.  The exhibition presents works from the 1980s with a focus on imagery of the bicycle as a symbol of the pace of modern technology and the fragility of humankind.  Among the works in the show is Between Lives (1989).

"Fantastic Women: Surreal Worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo" is presented at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt through May 24.  While the museum is temporarily closed, the show can be explored through a digital version of the exhibition, a video tour, and a fully illustrated catalogue.  The exhibition is also scheduled to travel to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark, June 18 - September 27, 2020.  Among the 260 works by 34 international female artists gathered to reveal the underrecognized breadth and depth of their contri­bu­tion to Surre­alism are eight paintings by Dorothea Tanning, including Voltage (1942).

The Centraal Museum in Utrecht has organized "The Tears of Eros: Moesman, Surrealism, and the Sexes," scheduled through through May 24, although the museum is temporarily closed. The exhibition examines the work of the Dutch Surrealist Johannes Moesman (1909-1988), who explored sexual fantasy and transgression in his art, in the context of Surrealist works from his own time through the present day. The show includes the sculptures Pelote d'épingles pouvant servir de fétiche (Pincushion to Serve as Fetish) (1965) and Nue couchée (Reclining Nude) (1969-70).

The Menil Collection presents "Photography and the Surreal Imagination" through June 14, although the museum is temporarily closed until further notice. Drawn from both the Menil's holdings and nearby Houston collections, this exhibition considers the tension between documentation and invention and the legacy of Surrealism in modern and contemporary photography. It features the collage Still Calling Still Hoping (1988), which has recently entered The Menil Collection and includes a photocopy of the artist's own hand.

“Dorothea Tanning: Printmaker” will open at Farleys House & Gallery, the historic home of Lee Miller and Roland Penrose in Muddles Green, East Sussex.  On view from May 21 - July 12, the exhibition will focus on the artist's graphic works, presented in a setting she knew well from numerous visits to see her friends the Penroses.  Among the works will be the etching Nue Couchée (Reclining Nude) (1965).

"Beyond Realism: Dada and Surrealism" celebrates highlights from the collection of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh.  Though the Gallery is termporarily closed, the installation is scheduled through October 25.  It includes over 40 works that explore one or both of the two principal appraoches of Surrealist art: the first form that relies upon unpremeditated or chance effects, and the second that offers apparently irrational images in a realistic style.  The exhibition includes the Gallery's newly acquired painting Tableau Vivant (Living Picture) (1954).

"Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser" at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, will explore Lewis Carroll's classic text Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from its origins through 157 years of adaptations and reinventions.  This immersive and theatrical show will be on view June 27, 2020 - January 10, 2021, and include the painting Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943).




Victoria Carruthers has published Dorothea Tanning: Transformations, released by Lund Humphries.  A definitive study of the artist's life and career, this monograph provides a framework within which to consider the range and depth of Tanning's work and thematic preoccupations.  The book is extensively illustrated and features previously unpublished material from interviews which the author conducted with the artist between 2000 and 2009.

Claire-Louise Bennett is releasing Fish Out of Water, published by Juxta Press as part of its Words for Portraits series of essays and short stories from English- and Italian-language authors written on a portrait of their choice. Drawing inspiration from the painting Self-Portrait (1944), this book is a meditation on Tanning's life, art, and portraiture, and the rebellious internal worlds and nascent creativity that defined the childhoods of the artist and the author.

A new catalogue, Max Ernst – D-paintings – Zeitreise der Liebe, has just been published by the Max Ernst Museum Brühl of the LVR in conjuntion with an exhibition on view through March 22, 2020.  The exhibition and catalogue celebrate a set of paintings created by Ernst from the time he first met Dorothea Tanning in 1942 until his death in 1976.  Every year Ernst gave Tanning a work for her birthday, almost always hiding the letter D for Dorothea.  Dr. Jürgen Pech examines all 36 "D-paintings" together with important contemporaneous works by Tanning and numerous photographs, letters, and other documents in a fully illustrated double biography that portrays their extraordinary love story.

De kloof – een weekend, a Dutch language version of Dorothea Tanning's novel Chasm: A Weekend, has been publiished by Uitgeverij Orlando, Amsterdam.   

Catriona McAra, University Curator at Leeds Arts University, has published "Glowing Like Phosphorus: Dorothea Tanning and the Sedona Western" in Journal of Surrealism and the Americas (10:1 [2019], pp. 84-105). In this article, Dr. McAra examines the emergence of the Hollywood Western as a formidable pop cultural format during the 1940s-50s, and the complex role it played in the surrealist art and literature from that period. The author examines the work of Ernst and Tanning created during their time living in Sedona, Arizona, where filmmakers were also drawn to the iconic red rock landscape.

The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid has published a fully illustrated catalogue in conjunction with the exhibition "Dorothea Tanning: Behind the Door, Another Invisible Door." The catalogue includes essays by exhibition curator Alyce Mahon, who gives an overview of the artist's career, and Tate curator Ann Coxon, who explores Tanning's work in light of the legacies of Surrealism and contemporary art practice. The catalogue is published in Spanish and English.



Ongoing Projects

We are looking for information about a number of paintings in the effort to fully document Dorothea Tanning's work for a catalogue raisonné. If you have seen any of these paintings, please contact us.

Concerning Wishes (1942)

Le Petit Marquis (1947)

Angel in Mauve and Orange (Study for Anges gardiens) (1947)

Les Infatigables (The Indefatigables) (1965)