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Between Lives: An Artist and Her World

The life and times of one of our most enchanting artists; a twentieth-century fairy tale, lovingly remembered and luminously told.

Fourteen years ago, the artist Dorothea Tanning published Birthday, a collection of reminiscences. Now she has expanded it into a memoir of her journey through the last century as confidant, collaborator, and muse to some of its most inspired minds and personalities: a diverse assemblage that ranges from the fathers of dada and surrealism to Virgil Thompson, George Balanchine, Alberto Giacometti, Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote, Joan Miró, James Merrill, and many more. At its center is the relationship, tenderly rendered, between Tanning and her famed husband, the enigmatic surrealist Max Ernst.

Whether recalling the poignant presence of her friend Joseph Cornell or simply marveling at the facades along a Venice canal, “their filmy reflections fluttering in the dirty canal like fragile altar cloths hung out to dry,” Tanning’s writing is beguiling, wry, and shot through with the same eye for pregnant detail and immanent magic that marks her art.

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Stuart Pearson says:

You want to have coffe with this artist Tanning turns out to be not just one of the most under-appreciated artists of her time, but a thoroughly delightful writer. The book is almost whimsical in its telling of her life with and without Max Ernst. Her descriptions of finding her muse, working against inertia, picking up emotional wreckage and continually finding herself anew are inspiring and told in such flowing prose you find yourself wanting to spend an afternoon with this wondrous woman. At the time of this review, she’s still…

unclechristo says:

inspiring I love this book. Ms Tanning writes with such a zest for life and creativity that I find it just spills over and communicates to the reader.She lived an amzing life and came a long way from sleepy small town America. There was obviously a determination or a restless something at work.Mosty of all I just enjoy the way she writes – it’s a lively quircky style but to me it got across the kind of person I imagine Dorothea Tanning to be.A work of character by a…

zahak says:

It Should Have Been So Much More Indifferent writing, a surprising lack of insight into the incredible milieu in which she moved, and gratuitously catty remarks towards the great Leonora Carrington (an earlier Ernst protege who Tanning apparently feels threatened by 50 years after the fact) mar what should have been a very interesting memoir of a remarkable life. Tanning, Max Ernst’s companion of 30 years and a compelling painter in her own right, was at the heart of one of the great artistic movements of the 20th Century,…

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