Mimi Johnson, Dorothea Tanning, Martha Johnson-Seillans 1966

This charming, playful family photograph of American Surrealist Dorothea Tanning with her two nieces Mimi and Martha Johnson, taken at the home she shared with her husband Max Ernst in Seillans, France, features wallpaper, the only thing that happened in her childhood home in Galesburg, Illnois, prominently.

In several of her works, noticeably Children’s Games and the final masterpiece of Surrealism, Room 202, Poppy Hotel, the wallpaper conveys a sense of menace bordering on horror. In her concentration on claustrophobic domestic spaces Tanning anticipated a whole wave of female artists, noticeably the photography of Francesca Woodman.

Dorothea Tanning-Children's Games 1942
Dorothea Tanning-Children’s Games 1942
Francesca Woodman, From Space2, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Francesca Woodman, From Space2, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976





12 thoughts on “Wallpaper

    1. Thank you very much. I love Tanning and that quote about the wallpaper, and as for Woodman, well I consider her in the same league as Rimbaud (though obviously different mediums).


  1. I have been fascinated by the art of Tanning since you first introduced her here at Cakeland. Her artwork seems always sexually charged, even in Children’s Games the young girls’ clothes are torn and the hair luxurious , taking on a life of its own. I love her painting Wallpaper and I think I would have liked this lady very much. Thank you for bringing them out tonight.

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    1. I am very fond of Tanning myself, obviously. I love the way she was involved in the arts of some description for eight decades, she never stopped creating, whether it was painting, semi-abstracts, soft sculptures, installations, poetry, biography; novels. She wasn’t necessarily fashionable during those periods but she just carried on creating. She had her vision, it was wild and yet familiar. I love this photo, even a family snapshot was a chance to create something.

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      1. Such a creative spirit and from what I have read an advocate for women in the arts. She certainly maintained her stamina longer than most, still creating works of art at 70 if I remember correctly.

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      2. She switched to writing in her late 70’s, published her autobiography at 91,first novel at 94 and last volume of poetry at 101. Hope for me yet. She definitely advocated for women in the arts

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  2. Tanning is an amazing artist. The wallpaper here is reminiscent of the poppy hotel, deep red and overpowering. Finding a section peeling away – you are helpless not to pull at it. What lies beneath? And Francesca is pure genius. The comparisons are unmistakable. Excellent post!

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