ArtsConnectEd/ArtsNet Minnesota
Inner Worlds

Art and Artists
 Arthur Dove
 Richard Hunt
 Cheryl Laemmle
 Betye Saar
 Kay Sage
 Yves Tanguy
 Jane Tuckerman

What is Art? Environment Identity Designing Spaces and Places
Yves Tanguy (eave tahn-GEE)
Yves Tanguy, Through Birds, through Fire, but Not through Glass Click to larger image
Yves Tanguy
Through Birds, through Fire, but Not through Glass, 1943
oil on canvas
40 x 35 in.

About the Art

Yves Tanguy was inspired to make art by the inner world of dreams and the subconscious mind. Rather than reflecting the external world, this painting combines realism with fantasy and mystery in an expression of a private experience.

The style in which Yves Tanguy created this painting is called Surrealism. The word "surrealism" comes from the French word surréalisme, make up of the roots sur- meaning beyond plus réalisme meaning realism. The art movement called Surrealism began in the early 1920s, in Paris, when a group of adventurous writers, painters, and filmmakers began what would become an international art movement. André Breton, a French poet, explained the movement's goals in his Manifesto of Surrealism, published in 1924.

Surrealism grew out of the despair caused by the devastations of World War I. A young generation of artists lost faith in humanity and rational thought. The Surrealists felt that the outside world had failed them so they turned to the subconscious mind for inspiration. This inner world of powerful images and ideas had been explored by Sigmund Freud through psychoanalysis. Freud's theories about the human mind and his writings on the interpretation of dreams strongly influenced the Surrealists. The Surrealists believed that the images and experiences in dreams could be used as inspiration for poetry and art. As a result, dreams, fantasy, and the element of chance played an important role in their work.

Through Birds, through Fire, but Not through Glass, looks almost like a portrait of the strange biomorphic form in the center of the painting. Just as dreams often include fragments of everyday life, Yves Tanguy combined outer and inner "reality" into a single work of art. Although the alien-like forms are fantasy, they are painted realistically in three-dimensional form. Several smaller forms lie or float in the landscape, helping to create the illusion of distance. The objects are bathed in light and, like objects from the real world, they cast shadows upon the ground. The shadows help to make the shapes appear real, yet they do not look like anything from the real world. Instead, they look like creatures from another world. Throughout the painting there is a feeling of mystery and ambiguity.

Vocabulary Terms

biomorphic--Abstract shapes that suggest living organisms.

landscape--A painting, drawing, or other depiction of natural scenery.

psychoanalysis--A method of treating mental disorders through investigating emotional conflicts and childhood repressions by getting the patient to talk freely, examining his or her dreams.

subconscious--A mental process which occurs without awareness, or conscious perception on the part of the individual.

Surrealism--Movement in art and literature from 1924 to 1945 where artists attempted to give visual representation to dreams, fantasies, and the unconscious mind. Emphasized real objects in unreal situations, surprise, contradiction and shock.

three-dimensional--An object which has height, width, and depth. Artists use illusionary techniques to create a sense of depth on a flat surface which has only height and width (two-dimensional).

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Inner Worlds | What Is Art? | Environment | Designing Spaces and Places | Identity
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