YVES TANGUY (1900-1955)
YVES TANGUY (1900-1955)
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YVES TANGUY (1900-1955)

Parure d’insomnie (Clothed in Wakefulness)

YVES TANGUY (1900-1955)
Parure d’insomnie (Clothed in Wakefulness)
signed and dated 'YVES TANGUY 47' (lower right); inscribed ‘PARURE D’INSOMNIE’ (on the turnover edge)
oil on canvas
18 x 15 1⁄8 in. (45.8 x 38.5 cm.)
Painted in 1947
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, by 1963.
Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris.
Isidore & Ida Cohen, New York, by 1974.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 14 May 1980, lot 250.
Private collection, Pennsylvania; sale, Christie’s, New York, 8 May 1991, lot 43.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
P. Matisse & K. Sage, eds., Yves Tanguy, Un Recueil de ses œuvres / A summary of his Works, New York, 1963, no. 382, p. 166 (illustrated).
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Yves Tanguy, November – December 1974, no. 38 (illustrated).

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

Lot Essay

Painted in 1947, Parure d’insomnie illustrates the growing sense of confidence and clarity that arose within Yves Tanguy’s Surrealist visions during his years living in America. In 1939, he had met the artist Kay Sage in Paris, and the pair embarked on a whirlwind romance. Just a few months later, in the November, Tanguy emigrated to the United States to be with Sage, and in the process became one of the first of a wave of leading Surrealists fleeing the war in Europe for a new life across the Atlantic. Initially renting a small room in Greenwich Village, the pair soon left New York for a more rural and peaceful existence in Woodbury, Connecticut, where they counted a number of artist friends among their neighbours, from Alexander Calder in nearby Roxbury and André Masson in New Preston, to David Hare and, later, Arshile Gorky. Immersed in this new environment, Tanguy became a far less erratic character than he had been in his youth, patrolling the streets and cafés of Paris with a reckless sense of wild abandon, painting only when it appealed to him. In turn, his visions increased in scope, stature and complexity, the mysterious realms of his canvases filled by intriguing new forms and configurations.
In America, Tanguy quickly settled into a routine that involved a methodical daily practice of painting, followed by in-depth discussions with Sage each evening about their work and creative progress. As a way to encourage and focus his medium-like method of creation, Tanguy worked solely on one picture at a time, painting in a single room that he had emptied of all its furnishings and objects, save that of his easel and painterly tools. Nothing else was allowed to enter this sacred empty space or to distract the artist while he concentrated on bringing into being the unique world of his canvases. Conjuring powerful and captivating images of a strange otherworldly landscape, populated with amorphic objects and outcroppings, Tanguy played with the boundaries between abstraction and figuration, landscape and Surrealist dreamscape.
The most dramatic change that America was to produce in Tanguy’s work, as he himself observed, was in his palette. In an interview with James Johnson Sweeney of New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1946, just a year prior to Parure d’insomnie’s creation, the artist remarked: ‘Here in the United States the only change I can distinguish in my work is possibly in my palette. What the cause of this intensification of colour is I can’t say. But I do recognise a considerable change. Perhaps it is due to the light. I also have a feeling of greater space here – more “room.” But that was why I came’ (‘Interview with James J. Sweeney,’ in Eleven European Artists. The Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 4/5, New York, 1946, p. 23). Indeed, richer, warmer colours began to infiltrate his compositions, as seen in golden hue of the ‘sky’ of Parure d’insomnie, while varying tones of red featured with increasing frequency, perhaps encouraged by input from his friend and neighbour Calder.
This new appreciation of the effects of colour is paralleled by a distinct focus on texture and surface in Parure d’insomnie, as certain elements appear to ripple and crease like sheer fabric, while others carry marks and whorls that call to mind stone or wood, granting them a contrasting monolithic and weighty quality. Similarly, Tanguy seems to push his forms and constructions to the edge of the canvas, now presenting his paintings as if they were partial views of a wider landscape, the rest of the mysterious scene remaining just out of sight. It is in the relationships between these forms, their contrasts and similarities, that the pull of Tanguy’s art lies. Writing about the artist’s hypnotic paintings in 1946, André Breton evocatively described the enigmatic atmosphere Tanguy conjured in these compositions: ‘There are no landscapes. There is not even a horizon. There is only, physically speaking, our immense suspicion which surrounds everything. These figures of our suspicion, lovely and miserable shadows that prowl around our cave, are really shadows… For a man who acts only on the purest motives, the fact of living among us gives him a vista on the mystery’ (quoted in Tanguy/Calder: Between Surrealism and Abstraction, exh. cat., New York, 2009, p. 31).

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