Dorothea Tanning


It’s Museum Week and being History geeks, we are also museum lovers. Being women, we celebrate women in culture. And today we're thrilled to feature Dorothea Tanning whose life’s work is now on exhibit at the Tate Modern London. It's a MUST SEE!

Dorothea discovered surrealism at The Museum of Modern Art (NYC, USA) in 1936. She saw in it an “effort to plumb our deepest subconscious to find out about ourselves.” She loved the “limitless expanse of possibility” the genre offered her and embraced it to fuel an 80-year career in the arts.

Her works explore the hidden musings of the mind. Doors left ajar lead to other doors, evoking portals to the subconscious. Wide open doors suggest choices made and challenges confronted. Doors closed tight appear to lock up secrets, fears, and unrequited desires. In her 1984 painting, DOOR 84, Dorothea divides the canvas in two with a door held in position by figures who push against it on either side, themselves getting nowhere.

But Dorothea didn’t just paint. She made costumes and set designs for George Ballanchine, which led her to the creation of 'soft sculpture' whose undulating shapes suggest human forms, straddling the 'doorway' between inanimate object and live being. In her later years, she wrote and published poetry.

She is a force of nature. But few recognize Dorothea Tanning's name. Why?

The surrealist movement, founded in a 1924 manifesto, was dominated by male artists: André Breton, Max Ernst, Man Ray, René Magritte, and Salvador Dalí. The female members got cast as ‘muse of’ or ‘wife of' -- their works overshadowed by the era's unequal power dynamics between men and women.

Dorothea was the 'wife of' Max Ernst. But her works criticize conventional culture, depicting the female liberated. She can claim, therefore, a crucial place in surrealism, as well as in the canon of feminist art.

Keep your eye on your inner world and keep away from ads, idiots and movie stars.
— Dorothea Tanning

Who's your #HistoryHero?

Who do you know that is defying inequality with a paint brush or pen? Nominate him or her for the History Hero BLAST today!