His family came from Locronan in the Finistère region of Brittany, where he spent his holidays, and whose menhirs and mystical sites enduringly haunted his imagination. During his schooldays in paris, from 1909 to 1918, at the Lycée Montaigne and the Lycée Saint-Louis, Pierre Matisse, son of the painter, was his classmate. In 1918 he departed as a merchant marine officer cadet aboard a freighter an traveled to Africa and South America. In 1920 he did his military service in the 27th Infantry Regiment of Lunéville, where he met Jacques Prévert. After enlisting to serve in Tunisia, he returned to Paris in 1922, and worked in a press agency, then for a private broker and was even a tram conductor. One day, from a bus platform, he got a glimpse of a canvas by de Chirico in the window of the Galerie Paul Guillaume. The painting so impressed him that he decided to become a painter and began painting in oils without and preliminary training. In 1924 Marcel Duchamp invited him to live with Jacques Prévert and other friends in a house he owned at 54 Rue du Château. This group enthusiastically embraced surrealism in 1925. after showing a few drawings at the Salon de l’Araignée, Tanguy had found his calling. In 1927, the year of his marriage to Jeanne Bucrocq, he had his first exhibition at the Galerie Surréaliste. The paintings of this period, such as L’Orage (1926, Philadelphia Museum of Art), L’Extinction des lumières inutiles (1927, Museum of Modern Art, New York), Maman, Papa est blessé (1927, Ibid) are light and airy. In 1930 he traveled in Africa, where he saw some curious rock formations that so entranced him that he began making works influenced by the geology of the site, such as L’Armoire de Protée (1931), Le Ruban des Excès (1932) and Jour de Lenteur (1937, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris). Henceforth Tanguy’s style consisted of endlessly unfolding beaches or deserts, scattered with rocks resembling the petrified ghosts of beings and things.
In 1939 he began a relationship with Kay Sage, an American artist in Paris. After war was declared, having been permanently discharged from the army, he joined Sage in New York, where they were married. Together the couple traveled through the western United States. In 1941 they settled in Woodbury, Connecticut, where they bought a 19th-century farmhouse and converted the barn into studios. Tanguy worked there for the rest of his life, becoming an American citizen in 1948, while staying in touch with his surrealist friends. He visited the Ernsts in Sedona, Arizona, in 1951, and acted in Hans Richter’s film 8 X 8. Tanguy revisited Europe in 1953, traveling through France, Italy and Switzerland on the occasion of his exhibitions in Paris, Rome and Milan. At the end of his life, his work became more dense and poignant. In his last paintings, including Mirage le temps (1954, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Multiplication des arcs (1954, Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Nombres imaginaires (1954), mineral elements and bones are piled up, crowding the foreground below a threatening sky charged with fluid electricity. His art unveils the great inner depths.
Born 1900 in Paris; died 1955 in Woodbury, Connecticut.