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Birthday

Painting, 1942, 102.2×64.8 cm

Description of the artwork «Birthday»

The model's direct and open gaze speaks of her calmness and courage to appear before us the way she sees herself “here and now”. Perhaps tomorrow everything will change, but today she is the gatekeeper at the aisle that leads to an infinity of new possibilities.(1942) - self-portrait painting, a landmark work of the artist. It is an impressive example of Dorothea Tanning's early work when she was heavily influenced by the European school of surrealism. The work carries a number of motives that will subsequently be repeatedly depicted and rethought by the artist. Such is the enfilade of open doors, a suite of endless vistas, the combination of nature and material culture that Tanning has displayed in her costume. Victorian purple silks and laces are definitely an allusion to her childhood years in a Puritan small town; naked chest - a message - a challenge, a demonstration of the desire to get rid of the oppressive past, from the fears of her family for the fate of her rebel daughter. And a skirt made of algae-like foliage can be seen as a desire to return to natural harmony. But, perhaps, these roots, tending to sex, say: if you do not move further, into the unknown, you can "sprout" in the present and get bogged down in it. The model's direct and open gaze speaks of her calmness and courage to appear before us the way she sees herself “here and now”. Perhaps tomorrow everything will change, but today she is the gatekeeper at the aisle that leads to an infinity of new possibilities.

At Dorothea's feet is an animal that art historian Whitney Chadwick called the "winged lemur." These fantastic animals are associated with the night, with the spiritual world. Otherworldly beings are often found on the canvases of Dorothea Tanning's contemporaries - Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo- symbolizing the unconscious world of night dreams, carrying relief from the day. The “birthday” is carefully crafted to the last detail, like all the works created by Tanning in her surrealist period.

According to art critics, this self-portrait of Dorothea Tanning has many similarities with Self-portrait of Leonora Carrington (1938). Indeed, both paintings combine fantasy and reality, each woman is depicted in the company of some magical creature. Tanning's doors and Carrington's window can be interpreted as symbols of a woman's creative and far-reaching abilities. Note that women are also connected by a figure Max ernst: fate decreed that first Carrington, and then Tanning were married to an artist.

Dorothea Tanning's “Birthday” painting was created by the artist in 1942, when she lived in New York. It was this picture - a sample of the early North American postmodern art - that introduced Dorotea to her future husband, renowned surrealist artist Max Ernst. It is said that for the first time Ernst and Tanning met at one of the noisy New York parties. Soon after, Ernst came to her studio to select one of the paintings for the 30 Women exhibition, which was organized by his wife Peggy Guggenheim (and even at the request of Peggy herself). On Dorothea's easel, he saw an unfinished self-portrait of a bare-breasted artist, for which he suggested the name “Birthday”. Ernst stayed to play chess with Dorothea, and after a week of acquaintance he moved to her apartment. They married three years later in Beverly Hills and lived happily all their lives, until the death of Ernst in 1976. As Dorothea Tanning later said, “they never spoke to Max about paintings and art.”

Prepared based on publications (1, 2).



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About the artwork

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Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait, Nude, Mythological scene

Style of art: Surrealism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1942

Size: 102.2×64.8 cm

Artwork in selections: 4 selections

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