King Playing with Queen

Apr 14, 2011, 12:14 PM |


Le Roi jouant avec La Reine
 (Max Ernst, 1944)
     This is April, 2011.   Should she live, Dorothea Tanning will turn 101 in August.   Just seven years ago, at age 94, she published a novel, Chasm: A Weekend.   That same year she published a collection of her poetry, A Table of Content.   At age 90 she published her second memoir, Between Lives to supplement her previous one, Birthday, published when she was 76. 
     This was Dorothea Tanning re-invented for the third time. 

Tanning and Ernst in Lee Miller's 1947 photograph.

     The second re-invention fully occurred when she met artist Max Ernst.  Before then Dorothea was a small-town girl with great vision, but little direction and just embracing surrealism in her fledgling art endeavors.   Ernst had fled Nazi-occupied Europe for the US when he met Tanning in 1942.   They eventually married and moved to Sedona, Arizona where Tanning's art blossomed.   In 1956, however, the US government terminated Ernst's citizenship and they moved to France  (between 1949 and 1956 they had spend a lot of time in France anyway).
     When Ernst first met Tanning, they played a game of chess.  Thereafter, chess formed an intimate part of their relationship and even their art.
     The most evident display of chess in their art was displayed in Julien Levy's Imagery of Chess show in 1944.
Dorothea Tanning's Endgame - Imagery of Chess 1944

     Besides the King Playing with Queen sculpture above, Ernst's other contribution to the Imagery of Chess show was his famous chess piece design:
     But there's far more to this design than is readily observable.  The design itself has a long history culminating in what Ernst considered one of his masterpieces.
     The origin of the design was about 1929 (cast in the early 1970s) with this bronze example called "Roi, reine et fou" :

     The 1944 boxwood set was the next evolution, followed by this 1952 example called, Madman, Queen and Horse:

     In 1966 Ernst made the following set with gold and sivler pieces:

     The final form of Ernst's chess vision is this gigantic glass set:

This set is spotlighted in detail at Max Ernst Masterpiece


     When Max Ernst died in 1976, 35 years ago, Dorothea lost her soul-mate of nearly 35 years.  Moving back to the United States, her final reinvention as a writer and poet was nearly as revolutionary and encompassing as her reinvention as a surrealist.

Le roi jouant avec la reine