This is the first large-scale exhibition of Dorothea Tanning’s work for 25 years. It brings together 100 works from her seven-decade career – from enigmatic paintings to uncanny sculptures.
Tanning wanted to depict ‘unknown but knowable states’: to suggest there was more to life than meets the eye. She first encountered surrealism in New York in the 1930s. In the 1940s, her powerful self-portrait Birthday 1942 attracted the attention of fellow artist Max Ernst – they married in 1946. Her work from this time combines the familiar with the strange, exploring desire and sexuality.
From the 1950s, now working in Paris, Tanning’s paintings became more abstract, and in the 1960s she started making pioneering sculptures out of fabric. A highlight of the exhibition is the room-sized installation Chambre 202, Hotel du Pavot 1970-3. This sensual and eerie work features bodies growing out the walls of an imaginary hotel room. In later life, Tanning dedicated more of her time to writing. Her last collection of poems, Coming to That, was published at the age of 101.