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
Discussion Questions/Activities
Yves Tanguy, Through Birds, through Fire, but Not through Glass
Yves Tanguy, Through Birds,
through Fire, but Not through Glass

How would you describe the mood of this painting? How does it make you feel? How is that mood created? In what way is this painting an expression of the inner word of the artist?

Do any of these objects look:

  • deflated?
  • weightless?
  • as if they are covering something else?
  • as if they are very far away?
  • as if they are mechanical?
  • as if they might be from an animal of some kind?
  • as if you could eat them?

What do you think inspired Tanguy to create a painting like this? Do you think these objects are real? If the artist has never really seen them, how can he paint them?

Tanguy gave this painting a title that sounds like a riddle: Through Birds, through Fire, but Not through Glass. What do you think the title means? Can you find any clues in the painting which might help solve the mystery of this strange title? Do you see any birds, glass, or fire? Could you pass through any parts of the painting?

Let It Flow!
Surrealists such as Tanguy wanted to utilize the subconscious in their artwork through the use of a technique called "automatism." Do a drawing using this technique, letting lines flow and trying not to control where your hand moves on the paper. When you are done, look at your drawing: Do you see any recognizable forms? Give your drawing a title.

Strange Lands
Write a story about the place pictured in Tanguy's painting. Will your story be science fiction, adventure, romance, biography? Who are the inhabitants of this strange land? What do they look like? What do they think?

Instruments of the Imagination
Imagine Tanguy's image is a musical instrument. What kinds of sounds would it make? Do you think it would be a wind, percussion, or string instrument? What kind of music would you play? Write a piece of music to be played on this instrument. Keep in mind the appearance of the forms and the mood of the painting as you write your music.


  • Incredible Inventions
    Have you ever seen ads on television for amazing new gadgets that do incredible, useful things? Study Tanguy's form in the painting carefully. What could it be used for? What kind of amazing new gadget might it be?

    Construct an amazing new gadget of your own. How will you construct it? Will it have moving parts? What kind of energy will be needed to power it?

  • Geology for Dreamers
    Tanguy studied unusual rock formations as inspiration for his surreal landscapes. Research unusual rock formations throughout the world. Study them and do a surreal landscape painting based on the formations. (Ideas: dolmens, stalactites, stalagmites, geodes, Grand Canyon, the Badlands in South Dakota, Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.)

Vocabulary Terms

automatism--Technique of creating a work of art without the use of thought or the conscious mind.

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

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Discussion/Activities, About the Artist, About the Art, Teacher Lessons

Inner Worlds | What Is Art? | Environment | Designing Spaces and Places | Identity
About the Art | About the Artist | Discussion Questions/Activities | Teacher Lessons