Yves Tanguy was born in 1900 in Brittany, France. He began his career in the merchant marines and was drafted into the army during the World War I. After the war he settled in Paris, earning his living by different jobs. He never got any formal training in painting. He said that the idea of becoming an artist came to him after he saw a picture by De Chirico in 1923. His friend, the poet Jacques Prévert (1900-77), introduced him into the circle of the Surrealists.
Evidently his childhood by the sea and marine career supplied him with the images he used in his painting - soft bean forms and bones, amoebas and amphibians, waving hairs or weeds, smoke puffs and clouds, ripples on water and shivering illumination – everything one could observe peering into the shallow waters by a shore, "where objects float hesitantly in the underwater light, shifting with the depth and tide" (James Thrall Soby, Yves Tanguy, NY, 1955).
One of Tanguy's first prominent works is Mama, Papa is Wounded! We'll not pretend we understand the work and on this occasion we'll turn to explanations of those who did:
"The title of this work is powerfully emotive and according to the art historian James Thrall Soby was taken from a psychiatric case history. The extraordinary hairy phallic object on the right presumably represents the father, emitting, like some wounded marine creature, a grey cloud; the mother is perhaps the green figure and the infant the jumping-bean-like object in the center". (Simon Wilson. Surrealist Painting. Phaidon. 1975).
The sea bottom, or some oneiric (dreamy) submarine landscapes Tanguy painted all his life achieving interesting coloristic results (in handling with color).
In 1946 Tanguy emigrated to the USA and took American citizenship. He showed frequently with the Surrealists. In 1955 there was his major retrospective show in New York.
Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture by Sam Hunter, Daniel Wheeler, John M. Jacobus. Harry N Abrams, 2000.
The Yale Dictionary of Arts and Artists. By Erika Langmuir and Norbert Lynton. Yale University Press. 2000.
A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art by Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press, 1998.
Surrealist Painting (Colour Library) by Simon Wilson. Phaidon Press Inc., 1993.