The daughter of a New York State senator who was also president of the Sage Improvement Company, Kay Sage first studied painting at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC. When her parents divorced, she followed her mother to Italy, dividing her time between their villa at Rapallo and visits to Rome, where in 1925, she married prince Ranieri di San Faustino. Because of this unhappy marriage, she stopped painting for several years, then moved to Milan to resume again, having her first exhibition at the Galleria Il Milione. At the Same time, she published an illustrated children’s tale, Piove in giardino (It’s Raining in the Garden).
In 1937 she came to Paris where one of her paintings exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants appealed to André Breton and Yves Tanguy, who visited her at her mansion on the Île Saint-Louis. This was the beginning of Kay Sage’s liaison with Yves Tanguy, whom she invited to New York in November 1939 after her divorce. In 1946 she purchased Town Farm in Woodbury, Connecticut, where the couple lived from then on, painting in their own studios. Sage’s painting described desert spaces or nightmare architectures (Tomorrow is Never, 1955, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
In 1954 Sage and Tanguy had a joint show at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. After Tanguy’s death, on January 15, 1955, Sage suffered a nervous breakdown and was plagued with failing eyesight, but continued to paint and wrote her autobiography, China Eggs. She wrote in her personal notebook, on June 2, 1955: “I live in a mist where personal dreams are the only true thing.” Her last painting, Le Passage (1956), is a portrait of herself viewed from the behind on the edge of a desert that betrayed a boundless, resigned despair. She published books of poems in French, including Mordicus (1962) illustrated by Jean Dubuffet.
Kay Sage committed suicide on January 8, 1963, after having bequeathed much of her paintings and written work to the Mattatuck Museum in Connectict, near Woodbury. Her ashes, along with those of Yves Tanguy, were scattered in the Bay of Douarnenez in Brittany by their friend Pierre Matisse.
Born 1898 in Albany, New York; died 1963 in Woodbury, Connecticut.
I Saw Three Cities, Oil on Canvas, 1944