In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Tanning made a series of soft sculptures from fabric. The surprisingly sensual forms of these sculptures echo the curious themes of her paintings, and explore sensuality and vitality with their allusions to the female form. The rounded ‘buttocks’, slender contorted ‘limbs’, and vertebrae suggested by seven table-tennis balls all contribute to the convincing impression of a ‘reclining nude’, as the title is often translated.
Original: Cotton textile, cardboard, 7 table tennis balls, wool and thread 38.5 x 108.9 x 53.5 cm Tate. Purchased 2003 © DACS, 2018
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.