Dorothea Tanning

Dorthea Tanning, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, 1943 | Artist’s commentary

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Part Nine Chapter 9

Shimmering water, shallow expanse, a caress unravelling a skein of ripples: The wind picks up. Look! A scattering of sanderlings, pale in their winter plumage, busily pecking their way about. Paradoxical birds: Swift and direct of purpose, yet looking random and lost.

̶  If not Delvaux, then who do you like, Sprague, in surrealist painting?
̶ Dorothea Tanning. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Do you know it?
̶ No.
̶ It’s magnificent!
̶ Where can I see it?
̶ In the Tate. And Birthday I like even better.
̶ Birthday?
̶ Her self-portrait on her thirtieth birthday. Still in a private collection, unfortunately. Look! Sanderlings and…
̶  Oystercatchers!

While the black-and-white birds with red beaks poke about, the sanderlings skip along the foamline, fleeing the wash of the waves only to pursue the backwash seaward, sticking their beaks into the bubbling sand.

Dorothea Tanning, Self-Portrait on 30th Birthday, 1942 | Artist’s commentary