Largely self-taught Dorothea Tanning became largely known within the Surrealism movement. Ms.Tanning wasn't void of formal training, having attended for a time, the Art Institute of Chicago. It isn't clear how long she was at the Art Institute, however it is written that she herself claims to have learned how to paint by going to museums. After college, Tanning worked as a commercial artist doing fashion advertising illustrations; practicing painting on the side in her spare time.
She was heavily influenced by the Surrealism movement and had her fashion advertisements discovered by an art director at Macy's who then introduced her to gallery owner Julian Levy. Levy's gallery was a venue for Surrealists and avante-garde artists in the 30's and 40's. Tanning was later introduced by Levy to the German Dada artist Max Ernst who was fond of her painting "Birthday". At the time Ernst was married to Peggy Guggenheim who owned The Art of this Century Gallery which Ms.Tannings work would be considered for in an exhibition with other women artists. Ernst and Tanning developed a relationship which later resulted in their becoming married. Tannings paintings portrayed mysterious imagery illuminating imaginary and dreamlike scenes with meticulous detail. The subjects could be erotic and perplexing with a sense of barrenness within the space.
Tannings work continued to change and progress over the years. In the 50's the paintings became more prismatic as you can see in this piece "Insomnies". Detail remains part of her aesthetic however with much more abstraction in the overall visual message. Her work is rather egnimatic in my view, and perhaps replicates aspects of her own life history. She was extremely talented in many areas and seemed to explore the many facets of her creativity with a bold and strikingly honest approach.