This three foot tall, two-and-a-half foot wide oil painting features unusual forms in a vast open space. The strange forms occupy the bottom third of the canvas, while the upper two thirds is a great expanse of misty violet haze. In this dream-like world, the mysterious forms cast shadows on the cloudy gray ground, which transitions into the pastel sky without a distinct horizon line. The forms themselves are unique and bizarre, painted with crisp detail and an opalescent palette. Some have biomorphic elements that resemble undulating seashells or melted plastic, while others have features that suggest blown glass and corrugated tin. Several of the forms are linked by taut threads or wires, though no pattern is readily discernible.
Yves Tanguy
Arrières-pensées (Second Thoughts), 1939

The Surrealists believed that dreams and reality could be resolved into a kind of absolute reality — or, as they dubbed it, surreality. Here, Tanguy presents what he called a mindscape: an eerie, illusionistic landscape that combines aspects of both realms.

The soft, opalescent palette and mysterious, biomorphic forms (bonelike shapes interconnected by delicately etched lines) give the feeling of being in another world, while the artist’s use of traditional perspective creates the illusion of realistic, three-dimensional space.

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Arrières-pensées (Second Thoughts)
Artist name
Yves Tanguy
Date created
oil on canvas
36 1/8 in. x 29 1/4 in. (91.77 cm x 74.3 cm)
Date Acquired
Collection SFMOMA
William L. Gerstle Collection, William L. Gerstle Fund purchase
© Estate of Yves Tanguy / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Permanent URL
Artwork Status
On view on floor 2 as part of Open Ended: Painting and Sculpture, 1900 to Now.

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