Here, the artist paints a white silk shoe crushing a bishop’s hat into a torn chessboard. Chess is a recurring theme in Tanning’s life and works – on Max Ernst’s first visit to her studio, they played chess together, and several photographs of them playing chess survive from their 34 years together. This is not to suggest sentimentality, however. In an interview with Roland Hagenberg in 1989, Dorothea Tanning talked about what chess meant to her. ‘It’s more than a game. It’s a way of thinking. You have to be clever in a warlike way. You are a good chess player if you have a mean streak in you. I think mean people make good chess players.’
The largest size variation we are able to offer this print in is 45 x 60 cm.
Date of work
Oil paint on canvas 146 x 98 x 30 cm Private Collection © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019
Dorothea Tanning (1910 – 2012) was an American artist, writer and poet. Aside from three weeks of tuition at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art in 1930, she was entirely self-taught. Although often described as a Surrealist artist, after the 1940s Tanning moved away from surrealist themes and evolved her own personal style. She lived with her fellow artist and husband, Max Ernst, in France from 1949 until Ernst’s death in 1976. In 1980, she moved to New York, and after a decade of studio art there, turned to writing and poetry in the 1990s, which she continued until her death at the age of 101.