Yves Tanguy (1900-1955)
Yves Tanguy (1900-1955)
Yves Tanguy (1900-1955)
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Yves Tanguy (1900-1955)
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YVES TANGUY (1900-1955)

Merveilles des mers

YVES TANGUY (1900-1955)
Merveilles des mers
signed and dated 'Yves Tanguy 36' (lower right)
oil on canvas
21 5/8 x 18 1/8 in. (55 x 46 cm.)
Painted in 1936
Galerie Jacques Tronche, Paris.
Private collection, France, by 1963.
Shaler collection, Darmstadt.
Michel et Susi Meyer collection, Zurich by 1969.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (no. 12884), on consignment from the above, September 1994 - June 1995.
Galerie Tessa Herold, Paris, by 2000 and until at least 2002.
Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.
Acquired from the above by the present owners in 2014.
P. Matisse & K. Sage, eds., Yves Tanguy: Un Recueil de ses oeuvres, New York, 1963, no. 176, p. 96 (illustrated).
P. Waldberg & A. De Rache, eds., Yves Tanguy, Brussels, 1977, p. 337 (illustrated p. 14).
R. Le Bihan, R. Mabin & M. Sawin, Yves Tanguy, Paris, 2001, p. 111 (illustrated).
G. Sebbag, Memorabilia: Constellations inaperçues: Dada & Surréalisme 1916-1970, Paris, 2010, pp. 291 & 398 (illustrated p. 290).
Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux- Arts, Bosch, Goya et le fantastique, May - July 1957, no. 358.
Cologne, Baukunst Galerie, Surrealismus in Europa: phantastische und visionäre Bereiche, October - November 1969, no. 141, pp. 78 and 135.
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Yves Tanguy und der Surrealismus, December 2000 - April 2001, no. 52, p. 234 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Houston, Menil Collection, June - September 2001.
Rome, Museo del Corso, Max Ernst e i suoi amici surrealsti, July - November 2002, p. 137 (illustrated p. 113; illustrated again on the back cover).
Aix-en-provence, Des duos et des couples, 2003 (illustrated).
A Coruña, Fundación Pedro Barrié de la Maza, Surrealismo: Max Ernst y sus amigos surrealistas, June - September 2004, p. 130 (illustrated p. 117).
Santa Cruz Tenerife, Instituto Óscar Domínguez de arte y cultura contemporánea, Éxodo hacia el sur, 2006, no. 6, p. 185 (illustrated).
Quimper, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Yves Tanguy: L’univers surréaliste, June - September 2007, no. 138, p. 150 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Barcelona, Musée National d'Art de Catalogne, October 2007 - January 2008.
Saint-Louis, Alsace, Espace d’Art Contemporain Fernet-Branca,?Chassé-croisé Dada-Surréaliste 1916-1969, January - July 2012, p. 55 (illustrated).
Paris, Maison de Victor Hugo, La Cime du rêve: les surréalistes et Victor Hugo,?October 2013 - February 2014, no. 241, p. 177 (illustrated).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Sale room notice
This painting has been requested for the forthcoming Forbidden Territories: 100 Years of Surreal Landscapes exhibition to be held at The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, November 2024 – April 2025.

Brought to you by

Ottavia Marchitelli
Ottavia Marchitelli Senior Specialist, Head of The Art of The Surreal Sale

Lot Essay

Across the expanse of Yves Tanguy’s Merveilles des mers (Wonders of the seas), a richly modulated blue grey ground swells; the colours seem to evoke the frothing waters off the coast of Brittany where the artist grew up while remaining entirely unrecognizable. After first hinting at a horizon, whose misty colours and indistinct forms articulate the mood the image, Tanguy would begin to populate the pictorial plane with a series of otherworldly figures derived from his subconscious, each of whom would beget the next. In the foreground of the present work, phantasmagorical figures ride contraptions that seem to have been plucked from prehistory.
Like so many of Tanguy’s alchemical landscapes, the present work is the result of an intuitive mode of painting that the artist first developed during the 1920s. Aside from a small series of works created during the early 1930s, which had been inspired by the artist’s travels in North Africa and resulted in the production of preparatory sketches, Tanguy nearly always employed a mediative, almost trance-like approach. ‘I found,’ he explained, ‘that if I planned a picture beforehand, it never surprised me’ (Y. Tanguy quoted in J. Thrall Soby, Yves Tanguy, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1955, p. 17). In doing so, he ensured that his roster of semi-abstract forms would never repeat itself but instead generate its own, self-sustaining organic growth. ‘The painting,’ he explained, ‘grows before my eyes revealing its surprises as it comes together. That’s what gives me a sense of total freedom, and for that reason I am incapable of conceiving a plan or of doing a preliminary sketch’ (Y. Tanguy quoted in the film by Fabrice Maze, Yves Tanguy. Derrière la grille des yeux bleus, 2007).
Over the course of the 1930s, Tanguy began to paint more isolated figures situated within vast landscapes. He paraded the biomorphic forms he took from Jean Arp and Joan Miró within molten worlds whose liquification seems to have been inspired by the direct observation of natural phenomena. As for the characters who fill Tanguy’s lands, they are equally fantastical: Dr Karin von Maur described the protagonist of Merveilles des mers as a ‘stilted, skeletal, [and] particularly alienated equine figure’ (K. von Maur, ‘Yves Tanguy or ‘The Certainty of the Never seen’, in K. von Maur, Yves Tanguy and Surrealism, exh. cat., The Menil Collection, Houston, 2001, p. 90). Indeed, the title of the present painting, too, captures the capaciousness of Tanguy’s dreamworld: Merveilles des mers refers to the marvels of the seas, evoking the distances and depths as yet uncharted. ‘The strange world known to him alone’, Patrick Waldberg would later write of Tanguy’s Surrealist settings, ‘whose secrets he elicited and revealed in the course of thirty years of ardent exploration, belongs to the domain of traveller’s tales, those imaginary ocean voyages in which the helmsman of a ship of dreams watches for the faint, faraway signals that will orient him to long-lost lands’ (P. Waldberg, Surrealism, Geneva, 1962, pp. 77-78).
1936, the year Merveilles des mers was painted, marked a significant moment in Tanguy’s career during which he was launched onto the American art world. In addition to several exhibitions across the United States, he gained the support of Alfred Baar, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, who not only included several of Tanguy’s paintings in the exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada, Surreal but also purchased two works for the museum’s nascent collection. The press, too, became enthusiastic about Tanguy’s unearthly visions, going so far as to write: ‘Simply as painting, Tanguy’s pictures are masterful in the extreme, for without recourse to the customary mechanics, he is painting canvases of infinite depth and space’ (B. Mac-Gurwin, ‘Art Stuff’, Script, 21 November 1936). And in New York, Pierre Matisse, the instrumental gallerist and son of the artist, began to contemplate representing the artist. Although the two had been childhood friends, Matisse had only come across Tanguy’s work in the mid-1930s; theirs would prove to be a lasting and influential relationship.

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