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Still in the Studio

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Tanning, Dorothea, Still in the Studio
Photo Credit: 

Petegorsky/Gipe

Not On View
Tanning, Dorothea
American (1910-2012)
Place made: 
Europe; France; Paris
Still in the Studio, 1979
Oil on canvas
Frame: 58 7/8 in x 45 3/4 in x 1 1/2 in; 149.5 cm x 116.2 cm x 3.8 cm; Stretcher: 51 3/16 in x 38 3/16 in; 130 cm x 97 cm
Purchase with the Warbeke Art Museum Fund
MH 2013.11

In Dorothea Tanning’s Paris studio we see the artist reclining against a table strewn with the tools of her trade: paints, brushes, and boxes of bright pastels. A ghostly, ectoplasmic substance seems to swirl amidst the objects, while a human-like figure climbs the window, its contorted form echoing that of the nude artist. Tanning painted Still in the Studio during a time of great transition. In 1976, at the age of 66, she returned to the United States after decades in France, a move triggered by the death of her husband, artist Max Ernst. Started in Paris and completed in New York, the painting grew out of deep introspection, a reappraisal of her life and art, and, ultimately, a resolve to redouble her creative work.

(2017)

In Dorothea Tanning’s Paris studio we see the artist reclining against a table strewn with the tools of her trade: paints, brushes, and boxes of bright pastels. A ghostly, ectoplasmic substance seems to swirl amidst the objects, while a human-like figure climbs the window, its contorted form echoing that of the nude artist. Tanning painted Still in the Studio during a time of great transition. In 1976, at the age of 66, she returned to the United States after decades in France, a move triggered by the death of her husband, artist Max Ernst. Started in Paris and completed in New York, the painting grew out of deep introspection, a reappraisal of her life and art, and, ultimately, a resolve to redouble her creative work.

(Sept. 2016)

What does it mean when a work of art is seminal?

Outside the window of the artist’s Paris studio, we see the sunny Quai St. Michel neighborhood that she called home when in the capital. She loved the look of the rooftops and talked excitedly about the simply joy of looking out her window. On her studio table, we see the paints, brushes, and pastels of her trade. There is a discernible human-like spirit climbing the window, floating near the main figure at the table—probably a portrayal of the artist herself. Finally, the zig-zag of the lamp provides a counterpoint to the constrained geometries of the window, leads the eye back to the subject, and contrasts with the soft forms of the body.

Dorothea Tanning finished this painting when she was 69 years old. She had been an active artist since her early 30s and enjoyed a well-established reputation for her surrealist art. This painting emerged from a time of great transition in her life. Her husband, Max Ernst, had died in 1976 and she had decided to return to the United States after decades in France. With Still in the Studio she proclaimed—to herself as much as to her viewers—that she had every intention of remaining a productive artist. In fact, the shift from France to the US, and from wife to widow, triggered a period of incredible vitality. She proceeded to create sculpture, prints, drawings, paintings and poetry of great power for the next two decades. Started in Paris in 1976 and completed in New York in 1979, this painting emerged from a moment in her life characterized by deep introspection, a reappraisal of her life and art, and, ultimately, a resolve to redouble her creative work.

(2014)