Van Gogh •
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Yves Tanguy was born in Paris, the son of a sea captain, but
spent his summers and holidays in Brittany. He was a cadet in the Merchant Navy and an apprentice officer on a line of cargo boats sailing between Africa and South America. In 1920 he was drafted into the French army, where he met Jacques Prevert, the poet and film director who was to become Tanguy's closest friend and was to influence the direction Tanguy's life would take from that point on. Tanguy joined Prevert in Paris in 1922. During this time, Tanguy saw a painting by de Chirico in the window of a gallery and was inspired enough by this work to become a painter himself. He started his career by doing humorous drawings, his early paintings were done in the manner of de Chirico. He was introduced into the Surrealist group in 1925, met André Breton in 1926 and was counted among the Surrealist painters from this date. Tanguy's early Surrealist efforts were influenced by Masson, Ernst
and Miro, but he was discouraged by these works and
destroyed many he counted as failures. In 1927, however, he developed a style and means of expression that he embraced as his own. For the next few years he perfected both his technique and the forms of his imaginary, symbolic world. These early works are of fluid open spaces, or subterranean watery expanses, in which strange goblin-like forms appear and disappear. After 1930 his style changed and his landscape became rocky and mineral-like in infinite expanses of sandy shores. Tanguy made no attempt to explain his images or to give them titles; what titles there are were those suggested by friends. In 1939 Tanguy and his wife, the painter Kay Sage, moved to the United States and settled in an old farmhouse in Woodbury, Connecticut, where he continued to paint his rocky Surrealistic landscapes. Speculation has been made that a visit to Arizona enforced his preoccupation in later years with barren bone-like forms and open horizons. Hints are present also of the coast of Brittany, with its expanse of ocean and beach where Tanguy spent his youth. The variety of Tanguy's rock-like and metallic forms have an almost anthromorphic quality about them, as if of the gathering of an alien but sentient life form in a distant landscape.