Imaginary landscape has long had a place in art, from the idealized classical landscapes of the Renaissance and Baroque eras to the imaginary worlds and alternate histories of modern fantasy and science fiction art.
Yves Tanguy painted landscapes from the world of impossible dreams.
Tanguy had no format artistic training. After leaving military service in 1922, he began sketching cafe scenes in his native Paris. He came across the work of Giorgio de Chirico, a painter who was also an inspiration for the Surrealists, and was so affected by it that he decided to dedicate himself to painting.
He encountered the Surrealists themselves not long after and became an official member of the group. (Surrealism wasn’t just a style, it was a movement, a “revolution”, led by poet Andre Breton.) His painting style matured rapidly and in a few years he was exhibiting with artists like Jean Arp, Joan Miro, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso.
Tanguy’s hauntingly strange images depict landscapes (for lack of a better definition) populated with unreal objects, but painted with a realism that makes them tangbile. Like Max Ernst, Tanguy is often missed in the attention paid to the more recognizable stars of Surrealism like Dali and Magritte. Also like Ernst, he is one of my favorites, and I find his paintings have a fascinating ability to pull you in and immerse you in that state where the rational and irrational meet and mix.
His work was inspirational to the other Surrealists as well as subsequent painters, modern illustrators like Richard Powers (see my post from yesterday) and even your humble writer. (I did my little nod to Tanguy in this early page from my webcomic back in the mid-90’s.)
In some ways Tanguy was the purest of the Surrealist painters, adhering more consistently to the ideals of unconscious imagery as extolled in the Surrealist manifestos and periodicals (to which he contributed). Tanguy married painter Kay Sage and moved to the U.S. in 1940, eventually becoming a citizen.
Unfortunately, the best book I know of about Tanguy, Yves Tanguy and Surrealism is out of print and a bit expensive if you can find used copies.