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Exquisite Dreams: The Art and Life of Dorothea Tanning

Exquisite Dreams: The Art and Life of Dorothea Tanning

Current price: $45.00
Publication Date: February 20th, 2024
Reaktion Books
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Beautifully illustrated with images of Dorothea Tanning’s artwork and more, the first—and definitive—study of this important artist’s life and creative output.
Dorothea Tanning (1910–2012) has for decades been known primarily as a Surrealist, but Exquisite Dreams shows how the work of this passionate, dynamic, and voraciously curious artist is impossible to categorize. Tanning’s lesser-known but equally powerful sculptures, abstract paintings, and films are explored here, and her writings, biography, and art are examined in the contexts of twentieth-century developments in advertising, fashion, popular culture, and art in New York and Paris.

Using new archival sources and analyses of Tanning’s work in a variety of media, Amy Lyford broadens our understanding of the artist and illuminates her stunning diversity and achievement. This richly illustrated book is an important contribution to the history of women artists, gender, and sexuality studies, as well as the history of Surrealism.

About the Author

Amy Lyford is the Arthur G. Coons Professor in the History of Ideas at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She is the author of Surrealist Masculinities: Gender Anxiety and the Aesthetics of Post-World War I Reconstruction in France and Isamu Noguchi’s Modernism: Negotiating Race, Labor, and Nation, 1930–1950.

Praise for Exquisite Dreams: The Art and Life of Dorothea Tanning

"A thoroughly convincing case for the importance of a woman who was considerably more than a Surrealist, the label attached to her from the start of her multifaceted career. . . . Sticking to her subject’s work, Lyford puts herself in the best position to illuminate an artist whose complexity would likely frustrate other approaches. . . . Exquisite Dreams offers trenchant observations and analyses as it traces Tanning’s career. . . . This book is both a scholar’s magnum opus and a lover’s report, the result of intensely responsive looking at her subject’s work."
— Willard Spiegelman

"Lyford’s Exquisite Dreams: The Art and Life of Dorothea Tanning is a critical study of Tanning’s art-making that seeks to expand our understanding of the richness and depth of Tanning’s career by considering the artist’s later work (her soft sculpture work in the 1960s for instance) as well as the more known surrealist paintings. . . . If you loved sitting in long art history lectures, you’ll find this work immensely satisfying. . . . Lyford also lends a thoughtful feminist interpretation to Tanning’s work. . . . The forever stylish Tanning never liked being called a 'woman artist' and didn’t like explaining her art, but she created plenty of fodder by her life, and more than seventy years worth of art-making, for scholars to explore."
— Ruth Lopez

"With revelatory eloquence, Exquisite Dreams chronicles Dorothea Tanning’s unique and faceted artistic career."
— Foreword Reviews

“Lyford has shaped a plethora of archival information into a story of Dorothea Tanning’s life and works. Exquisite Dreams is a highly readable page-turner that engages fully with Tanning’s canny critiques of gender and sexuality and illuminates the complexities of Tanning’s life, showing Tanning to be one of the most intriguing artists of the twentieth century.”
— Jennifer Shaw, Sonoma State University, author of "Exist Otherwise"

"A luxurious dream of a book which offers refreshing critical depth to Dorothea Tanning studies. Alongside painting and sculpture, Lyford’s eloquent analysis reveals Tanning’s cinematic imagination, the enduring significance of her commercial illustrations, and the environmental vitality of her little-known screenplay Unheard-Of News."
— Catriona McAra, lecturer in art history, University of Aberdeen