Artwork of the month February

Yves Tanguy, Titre inconnu (noyer indifférent), 1929, Hilti Art Foundation

Yves Tanguy

* 1900 in Paris, France, † 1955 in Woodbury, Connecticut, USA

Titre inconnu (noyer indifférent), 1929

Oil on canvas
92.2 × 73.2 cm
Hilti Art Foundation, Schaan


Titre inconnu, which dates from Tanguy's early Surrealist phase, is populated by enigmatic, unfamiliar figurations. They are clearly distinguishable but unidentifiable, suggesting both inorganic and organic origins, coming perhaps from the depths of the oceans, the expanses of the desert, or the infinity of the universe. The shapes could as easily represent the beginnings of natural history as the catastrophic end of civilization. The four largest of them, casting shadows from an invisible source of light, have congregated around a patch of fog rising in delicate tendrils. Both fog and figurations are seen against a dark ground whose relief-like surface is broken by spectral, white horizontal bands that fade into the immeasurable, pitch-black depths of space. We gaze upon an alien, nonhuman, and yet disconcertingly real universe that is in the process of becoming or of dying away, buffeted by the primeval clash between light and dark. The art of Max Ernst, for instance, Der Nordpol (The North Pole, 1922), resonates in this painting as well as the work of Hieronymus Bosch and, as Reinhard Hohl has observed, other Dutch masters of the early sixteenth century.

The Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung, who acquired Tanguy's painting the year it was created, discusses it in detail in his book Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky (1979, first published in German in 1958). He associates it with bleakness, coldness and human detachment, with cosmic inhumanity and endless abandonment, additionally interpreting it as an example of the loss of beauty and meaning in contemporary art, which has thrown human beings back on themselves as viewing subjects. However, the absence of explicit meaning, as demonstrated by Titre inconnu, can also lead to associations and reactions that yield illuminating insights into the world of darkness, very much in the spirit of Surrealism.

Uwe Wieczorek


"Yves Tanguy, the painter of gruesomely elegant entities in the air, in the depths of the earth and the seas, [...] my lovely friend."

André Breton


<b>Yves Tanguy, Titre inconnu (noyer indifférent), 1929, Hilti Art Foundation</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.