A Home for Surrealism: Fantastic Painting in Midcentury Chicago


  • The Arts Club of Chicago

June 7–August 17, 2018

Dorothea Tanning, Avatar, 1947.  Private collection. ©2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

A Home for Surrealism: Fantastic Painting in Midcentury Chicago offers an in-depth exploration of a select group of painters who planted domestic roots for the surrealist idiom in the 1940s and 1950s. Working in and around Chicago, Gertrude Abercrombie, Dorothea Tanning, John Wilde, Julia Thecla, Harold Noecker, and Julio de Diego interpreted the European movement as something at once more personal and more accessible to its audience. Thematizing the interior while also reconceptualizing ideas of imagination and fantasy, these artists offer tableaus that emphasize the narrative capacities of self and home. While Chicago has long been acknowledged as an important center for the exhibition and collection of European surrealist painting, its own practitioners deserve more widespread recognition. Through their distinct motifs and styles, these artists made surrealism into something that was local to Chicago, even as it acknowledged its international foundations. Working with a team of scholars, The Arts Club, which was on the forefront of introducing surrealism in the 1920s and 30s, offers a focused and revelatory snapshot of Chicago surrealism.