The present intention of the Yves Tanguy Committee is to include this work in the revised edition of the catalogue raisonné of his paintings and gouaches.
The serendipitous moment of recognition that led Tanguy to become a painter, and not long afterward commence his creation of these fantastical mental spaces, may sound like a surrealist fable, but it actually happened this way. Having served as a cadet in the merchant marine, Tanguy returned to Paris, but without recourse to any useful trade he drifted from one job to another. It was indeed a fateful day for him at the end of 1922, when standing on the platform of a moving bus, Tanguy caught a glance of two unusual looking paintings in the storefront window of Paul Guillaume's gallery on the rue du Faubourg-St. Honoré. He jumped off the vehicle to get a closer look--the pictures were by Giorgio de Chirico. Only a few years before, André Breton had discovered the art of "il grande metafisico" in the same gallery. Tanguy was enthralled. Not long after, he began to draw and paint. He had no interest in proper training--his efforts were entirely self-taught.
Having seen their landmark exhibition at the Galerie Pierre in 1925, Tanguy sought out the surrealists. He met André Breton at the end of that year, and participated in surrealist events the following spring. He flourished in this company, while remaining true and fast to an inner vision of things: he quickly developed his own distinctive style and subject matter, which owe something to the biomorphic abstraction of Jean Arp and Joan Miró, but more importantly stem from childhood memories of Brittany and his experiences at sea. While he was growing up in Paris, his family made frequent visits to Locronan, the town in coastal Finistère province from which his mother hailed. There he encountered the rude but imposing rock structures, the dolmens and menhirs (fig. 1) that prehistoric people had erected for purposes now lost to us in time. Tanguy enjoyed exploring the marine life in tide pools along the rocky coast, and was fascinated with local legends of the mysterious city of Ys, submerged Atlantis-like beneath the waves offshore.
The motifs that Tanguy paints in his compositions are prolific cellular forms--part organic, part weirdly engineered constructions--that inhabit the vast landscape of no known place. Rendered in meticulous, modeled detail, these bizarre things, or perhaps creatures, manifest the illusion of possessing real substance and their own kind of living existence-ostensibly static, they give the impression of being capable of evolution, growth and even movement, albeit at an imperceptibly glacial pace. In Je te retrouve objet trouvé ("I find you found object") a quartet of oddly amalgamated beings, some more complex than others, have assembled on a curved lunar plain. Each grouping casts a shadow on the gray earth and is also echoed at the left by spindly doppelgangers. The smallest upright form ressembles a disembodied eye, perhaps a reference to the search that the work's title implies, and maybe the horizontal form at the lower center edge is the objet trouvé that has been found. The found object was of course most readily associated with a non-art object with little or no modification that were employed by Picasso in his cubist collages and Duchamp in his ready-mades.
The evocation of landscape, filtered through memory and imagination, is the defining constant in Tanguy's art. In this respect Tanguy's work is unique among the surrealist painters, who more typically displayed a multiplicity of subjects and styles. James Thrall Soby wrote: "Once he found his direction--and he found it with a startling abruptness--he followed it with devotion and purity, secret in his quest and oblivious of the pressures of fashion and commerce" (Yves Tanguy, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1955, p. 9). Tanguy's conception of a bare, featureless inner landscape was so compelling that it influenced Salvador Dalí, who had the advantage of academic training, to treat his trompe l'oeil landscapes in a similar way. In Tanguy's painted world, the land is vast and empty as far as the eye can see, and the ether above even more expansive, but ominously weighty, bearing down on the creatures that dwell below.
(fig. 1) The Ménee alignment of megalithic stones near Carnac, Brittany. BARCODE: 28500414_FIG