Dorothea Tanning

Dorothea Tanning

I saw the Dorothea Tanning exhibition at the Tate Modern. The overall impression was of doors, which was not surprising, her being a surrealist. The scariest door was the one in Hotel du Pavot Chambre 202, where you could not see what or who was entering the nightmare room. The room also seemed to be an inspiration for the photographs of Francesca Woodman whose photographs blended her own body into the walls of a dilapidated house.

I saw a Paula Rego exhibition at the Musee de Orangerie in Paris last year and it was immediately apparent who Rego’s predecessor was. Tanning could paint in the classical style which made her early paintings very real while they were so unreal and dreamlike. Her later paintings became more abstract, and my favourite painting from the exhibition was Insomnias


Figure 1 Insomnias by Dorothea Tanning oil on canvas 207 x 145

Insomnias is a large painting similar in scale to the works of the Abstract Expressionists where human and animal forms emerge from a pastel cloudscape. There are obvious parallels with Chambre 202 and this painting, which harks back to the Renaissance paintings and is almost is a precursor to the work of Jenny Saville.

That I can see her influences on artists who came after her, only goes to show what an important artist she was in terms of the development of modern and contemporary art.