Birthday by Dorothea Tanning

Birthday by Dorothea Tanning

Oil on canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, USA

A seminal work for Tanning, ‘Birthday’ saw her noticed by artists such as Max Ernst, and placed her strong individuality on the artistic map whilst introducing the motifs that would recur throughout her career. Painting herself in the foreground of a room that recedes into an endless passage of infinite open doors her costume is entwined with nature and culture with her open blouse reflecting the aristocratic in silk and lace and her skirt flowing with seaweed foliage. A winged lemur sits next to her feet, a symbolic association between night and the spirit world and a symbol of the unconscious released in dreams.

Dorothea Tanning

Dorothea Tanning
Surrealism, Installation Art, Proto-Feminist Artists, Modern Sculpture
Born: 25 August 1910, Illinois, USA
Nationality: American
Died: 31 January 2012, New York, USA

Tanning was a painter, printmaker, sculptor, writer, and poet. Art pervades much of Tanning’s life; her images, objects, and texts have become worthwhile art and her very presence transformed photographs and moments in time to make them more artistic. The whirlwind energy that followed Tanning as a person is found in her brushstrokes. Tanning’s complete oeuvre is dominated by her unstoppable life force characteristics. Her ideas were too big for rural Illinois so Tanning left for Chicago and then New York. In New York she found both the style and company that she identified as a Surrealist. She also married Max Ernst. Tanning meticulously depicted her own dreams throughout her long career. This psychological exploration of self continued as her work developed into the more abstract and sculptural

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