Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012)
Property of La Salle University
Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012)

The Temptation of St. Anthony

Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012)
The Temptation of St. Anthony
signed and dated 'Dorothea Tanning 45-46' (lower right)
oil on canvas
47 7/8 x 35 7/8 in. (121.4 x 91.2 cm.)
Painted in 1945-1946
Galerie André-François Petit, Paris.
Ira and Tonian Genstein, Pennsylvania (by 1981).
Elizabeth Gettinger.
Tonian and Joseph Volk, Pennsylvania (by descent from the above).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1985.
H. Janis, “Artists in Competition: Eleven Distinguished Artists Compete in a Struggle with the Temptations of St. Anthony," Arts & Architecture, vol. 63, April 1946, p. 55 (illustrated, p. 33).
L. Lerman, "Hollywood: Art," Harper’s Bazaar, April 1946, p. 145 (illustrated).
“Tempting Women,” Newsweek, September 1946, p. 92 (illustrated).
J. Seznec, “The Temptation of St. Anthony,” Magazine of Art, vol. 40, March 1947, p. 90 (illustrated).
J. Marcel, Histoire de la Peinture Surréaliste, Paris, 1959, pp. 322-323.
P. Waldberg, “Dorothea Tanning et Les Enfants de La Nuit,” Dorothea Tanning, exh. cat, Casino Communal, Knokke, 1967, p. 12.
U. Schneede, Surrealism, New York, 1973, p. 102.
P. Waldberg, “Dorothea Tanning: La Mémoire Ensorcelée," Les Demeures d’Hypnos, Paris, 1976, p. 321.
D. Tanning, Between Lives: An Artist and Her World, New York, 2001, p. 157.
C. Wistar, La Salle University Art Museum: Guide to the Collection, Philadelphia, 2002, p. 105 (illustrated).
M.-Y. Moriuchi, "Space, Place and Gender in the Art of Dorothea Tanning," Art and Social Change: Essays on the Collection of La Salle University Art Museum, Philadelphia, 2016, pp. 166-169 (illustrated in color, p. 162, fig. 9.1).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc. and Washington, D.C., The American Federation of Arts, Bel Ami International Competition Portraying the Temptation of St. Anthony, September 1946, p. 28 (illustrated and illustrated again in situ, p. 29).
Washington, D.C., Caresse Crosby Gallery, The Temptation of St. Anthony, October 1947.
Tucson, University of Arizona Museum of Art, The Sedona Collection, October 1958-September 1959.
Museen der Stadt Köln, Westkunst: Zeitgenössische Kunst seit 1939, May-August 1981, p. 110, no. 289 (illustrated; illustrated again in situ, p. 381).
Sale room notice
Please note that this painting has been requested by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, The Baltimore Museum of Art and Frist Center for the Visual Arts for their forthcoming exhibition “Monsters & Myths: Surrealism And War in the 1930s and 1940s” to be held from October 2018-September 2019.

Lot Essay

In 1945 Tanning was invited to submit a painting representing the Temptation of Saint Anthony to the Bel Ami International Competition. Eleven artists presented works to be considered for inclusion in a movie produced by MGM studios based upon Guy de Maupassant’s novel, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami. Fellow Surrealists Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Paul Delvaux, and Leonora Carrington all entered paintings into the contest, the jury for which included Alfred Barr, Jr., Sidney Janis and Marcel Duchamp. Maupassant’s book chronicles the corrupt rise to power of the journalist George Duroy, who uses his charm and good looks to climb from poverty to the top of Parisian society by bedding and manipulating wealthy women. The subject of the Temptation of Saint Anthony was a fitting theme, one that has a long tradition in the history of art representing the struggle between good and evil (fig. 1).
The submissions were eclectic in their interpretations: Ernst produced a monstrous, tortuous hell; Dalí an apocalyptic fantastical heaven; and Carrington a quiet serene universe. In her own phantasmagoric fantasy, Tanning depicts a bearded Saint Anthony cowering from his sins. Voluptuous, demonized women surround the tormented saint, whose robes dramatically swirl in the air above him and give way to nude female bodies, symbolic of the sexual visions he experienced while crossing the Egyptian desert. The rocky outcropping of the desert setting entraps the saint, forcing him to directly confront the temptations that surround him. Tanning explained her vivid hallucination: “It seems to me that a man like our St. Anthony, with his self-inflicted mortification of the flesh, would be most crushingly tempted by sexual desires and, more particularly, the vision of woman in all her voluptuous aspects. It is this phase which I have tried to depict in my painting. St. Anthony, alone in the desert, struggles against his visions, half-formed, moving in indolent suggestions, colored with the beautiful colors of sex, his desires take shape even in the folds of his own wind-tossed robes” (op. cit., 1947, p. 28). This anthropomorphized drapery recalls Tanning’s earlier work, Birthday, a self-portrait in which the artist depicts herself in a ruffled purple brocade jacket, opened to reveal her bare chest, atop a skirt of long green tendrils, which, upon scrutiny, assume the form of writhing nude female human bodies (fig. 2).
Tanning was not the winner of the Bel Ami prize; the chosen painting, which now resides in the collection of the Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, was submitted by her future husband, Ernst. Tanning’s version was acquired by the LaSalle University Art Museum, where it has hung since 1985.

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