About this work
Oil on canvas
20 x 16 in.
In her own words...
Barbara Shikler: You said your painting held up very weIl. That must have been very comforting to know.
Dorothea Tanning: In fact, some of those early paintings still look healthy, you might say. I'm kind of amazed, because I hadn't studied all those things about permanence and materials. I just used what l had. I remember one painting that I made. You see…having never moved as a child… I somehow fulfilled my desire to move by moving a lot in New York. And one of the places I went to live in was the filthiest – but the filthiest – sort of a loft you can imagine. East 21st street, not far from 5th Avenue….it belonged to a sculptor.…And he worked in the back room, and probably thought it would be nice to rent out the big front room, and take in a little money. So he rented it to me. Well, I not only worked in it, I lived in it. It was supposed to be my home. And I put my bed in there, and a chest of drawers a couple of chairs. That was it. But it was so dirty, because somehow, in those days that was a manufacturing neighborhood and in the winter smoke and soot just floated in the air. You could almost see it float down in this room, on everything. I could not even walk on the floor. I had to be very careful to put some slippers on before I touched the floor with my feet.
Well, I set up a canvas on a chair. I didn't have an easel. I set a canvas up on the chair, and sat on the opposite chair, and painted an imaginary portrait….I think the thing that makes it so attractive – is the dirt. Because the dirt is right in the painting...
BS: A dirt glaze, you might say.
DT: It just has a softness.
BS: Oh, it's wonderful how these things happen – these accidents of fate.
DT: I didn't stay there very long. I guess about three weeks.
— from “Oral History Interview with Dorothea Tanning, Conducted by Barbara Shikler, July 11-November 5, 1990.” Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1990, pp. 106-108.