Artist, Writer and Self-taught Surrealist

Valentina Sonzogni, art historian, talks about Dorothea Tanning's work

Cinquieme peril by Dorotea TanningLa Galleria Nazionale


Dorothea Tanning 1910 – 2012. She was an American artist mainly associated with the surrealist movement.

In the 1940s she exhibited her works in New York, capturing the attention of European surrealist artists who in those years found themselves in the United States after leaving Europe amidst World War II.

Premier peril by Dorotea TanningLa Galleria Nazionale


Tanning was self-taught and only studied for 3 months at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Her painting was immediately influenced by literature, especially by Lewis Caroll and by romantic and gothic writers.

Her paintings were visual oxymorons where typical dream situations combined with bizarre and unreal elements, but rendered with meticulous painting bordering on Realism.

Quatrieme peril by Dorotea TanningLa Galleria Nazionale


The work at the National Modern Art Gallery collection is proof of Tanning's extensive activity in the field of graphic work which she dedicated herself to intensely starting from the 1950s, focusing on collaborations with writers and poets, an interest that continued throughout her artistic activity.

Sixieme peril by Dorotea TanningLa Galleria Nazionale


The works entitled Les sept perils spectraux are contained in a folder of 7 colour lithographs in an edition of 55. And they are created to accompany the text of French poet André Pieyre de Mandiargues identified with the study of surrealism and famous for his macabre and erotic taste, puns and polysemy.

It was Dorothea Tanning herself who declared in 1955 that she was unsure whether to become an artist or a writer throughout her life.

Deuxieme peril by Dorotea TanningLa Galleria Nazionale


The 7 lithographs recall several of the themes and subjects found in Tanning's painting such as phantasmagoric female figures, sunflowers, house interiors that overturn into exteriors, all subjects part of an imaginary that uses painting at times realistic to evoke a world that remains invisible but no less concrete than the real one.

Credits: Story

Voice message by Valentina Sonzogni, art historian and co-Director of Animot magazine.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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