Kay Sage


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Painter. Also a poet. A surrealist, she realized hallucinatory visions in a crisp, severe style. Born in Albany, New York, Katherine Linn Sage spent most of her childhood and young adulthood in Europe, except for the World War I years, when she took classes at the Corcoran School of Art (now Corcoran College of Art and Design) in Washington, D.C. Although she also had some instruction in Rome in 1920, she otherwise remained largely self-taught as an artist. While married to an Italian prince from 1925 to 1935, she lived in Rome and Rapallo, published poetry, and made the transition in her painting from a representational style to one influenced by Giorgio de Chirico's metaphysical voids. In 1937 she moved to Paris. Soon accepted into surrealism's inner circle, she particularly admired Yves Tanguy's enigmatic works. Her mature paintings reverberate with Tanguy's vast and melancholy spaces, but she pursued her own eerie iconography. Typically, she measured out her landscapes with incoherent, often damaged architectural elements. These sometimes combine with geometrically precise natural forms, such as rocks, or with fragments of drapery. A strong, clear light usually illuminates her desolate vistas drained of all but the most subdued color. The foreboding No Passing (Whitney Museum, 1954) depicts a line of slablike towers receding to the horizon, in combination with a few wisps of drapery and numerous menacingly sharp sticks and other fragments. As World War II broke out, Tanguy followed her to New York, and they married in 1940. The following year, they settled permanently in rural Woodbury, Connecticut. After Tanguy died in 1955 and cataracts began to impair her eyesight soon afterward, Sage lived reclusively. In these later years she experimented with assemblages but turned much of her creative energy to poetry, publishing four volumes between 1957 and 1962. Weighed down nevertheless by depression and alcoholism, she took her own life. An autobiographical account of her early life appeared in a 1996 bilingual edition as China Eggs/Les Oeufs de porcelaine.

Subjects: Art.

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