French-born US surrealist painter.
The son of a ship's captain, Tanguy embarked on a career as a merchant seaman, but after two years at sea followed by military service, during which he met the surrealist poet Jacques Prévert, he began to look for an alternative vocation. He was inspired to take up painting in 1923, after seeing a picture by Giorgio de Chirico in the window of a gallery in Paris. In 1925 Tanguy joined the surrealist movement and painted some of the earliest surrealist works. His paintings portrayed bleak unearthly landscapes with stark inanimate objects or ghostly life forms, as in He Did What He Wanted (1927) and Days of Slowness (1937). They were an attempt to display on canvas the irrational products of the subconscious mind. Rock formations played an important part in the early pictures and even more so after his trip to Africa in 1930, where he was fascinated by the structure of the rock formations that he saw. In his later work the forms he depicted tended to be more abstract. In 1940 Tanguy married the US painter Kay Sage and in 1942 he settled with her in Woodbury, Connecticut, where he remained for the rest of his life, becoming a US citizen in 1948.