Children Going to School
A noted artist and poet, Tanning was born and raised in Galesburg, Illinois. After attending Knox College from 1928 to 1930, she relocated to Chicago and later moved to New York City in 1935. She became acquainted with the émigré Surrealist artists in New York in the 1940s and converted to Surrealism, later marrying the German Surrealist Max Ernst. Tanning’s art followed the radical aims of the movement to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, which can be seen as a repudiation of her conventional Midwestern upbringing. This work depicts two female children transforming into dogs and reflects the Surrealist fascination with the blurring of such rational boundaries as human/animal and conscious/unconscious. While male Surrealists were interested in the motif of the femme-enfant (female child) for erotic reasons, Tanning often used the theme to communicate feelings of emotional honesty and sexual rebellion. This provocative drawing may have also challenged the infantilization and control of females by male culture, as dogs and children have traditionally been subservient to master and father.