Salon once asked Dorothea Tanning to define the aims of her artwork and the artist responded: "I’d be satisfied with having suggested that there is more than meets the eye." The eloquent painter and poet passed away in January at 101 years old, marking the death of the last of the original surrealists to have graced the earth. Her posthumous exhibition "Unknown But Knowable States" explores the experience of seeing an image that illuminates the bounty of the unseen. Scroll down for a slideshow of the works.

dorothea tanning

Tanning was an aspiring artist working as a fashion illustrator at Macy's when she met Max Ernst. The German surrealist was already married to art world socialite Peggy Guggenheim at the time, who was hosting an exhibition entitled "30 Women." When Ernst saw Tanning's now iconic self-portrait "Birthday," in which a topless Tanning stands alongside a mutated flying money, he suggested Guggenheim change the show title to "31 Women." Soon Tanning and Ernst had moved in together and the two eventually married in a joint ceremony with Man Ray and Juliet Browner.

Tanning and Ernst enjoyed an art-filled love affair, encircled in surrealist figures including Lee Miller, Yves Tanguy and Marcel Duchamp, yet Tanning's association with Ernst often led to a discrediting of her own artistic merit. A poem of hers lamented: “Many years ago today / I took a husband tenderly / This simple human gentle act / Seen as a hard decisive fact / By all who dote on category / Did stain my work indelibly / I don’t know why that is / For it has not stained his."

dorothea tanning

There's good news for fans of the female artist, however. The exhibition of 30 works during Tanning's time in Paris entitled "Unknown but Knowable States" reaffirms her status as a force to be reckoned with in art. Rippling muscles and rippling fabric converge in a gorgeous display of femininity and strength from the self-described “oldest living emerging poet." Her epic paintings span the breadth of art history from Michelangelo's muscular divinity to contemporary abstractionists Cecily Brown and Natalie Frank. Renaissance drama, mannerist strangeness and Abstract Expressionist passion all coexist on the canvas, each creating a new genre unto itself.

"Unknown but Knowable States" will show at Wendi Norris Gallery in San Francisco from January 10 until March 2, 2013. See a preview below and let us know what you think of her work in the comments.

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  • Dorothea Tanning Étreinte 1969 wool flannel and fake fur stuffed with wool 40 x 401/2 x 21 in Image courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco

  • Dorothea Tanning Chiens de Cythère (Dogs of Cythera) 1963 oil on canvas 77 1/2 x 117 in Image courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco

  • Dorothea Tanning Même les jeunes filles (Even the Young Girls) 1966 oil on canvas 65 1/4 x 80 1/4 in Image courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco

  • Dorothea Tanning Notes for an Apocalypse 1978 oil on canvas 50 x 62 in Image courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco

  • Dorothea Tanning Still in the Studio 1979 oil on canvas 51 3/16 x 38 3/16 in Image courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco

  • Dorothea Tanning Traffic Sign 1970 fabric, synthetic fur, wool, metal, and cardboard 66 1/4 x 13 7/8 x 13 7/8 in Image courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco

  • Dorothea Tanning Birthday 1976 1976 felt tip pen and crayon on mat board 32 x 40 in Image courtesy of the Dorothea Tanning Foundation and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

  • Dorothea Tanning Faith, Surrounded by Hope, Charity, and Other Monsters 1976 oil on canvas 45 3/4 x 35 in Image courtesy of the Dorothea Tanning Foundation and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

  • Dorothea Tanning Philosophie en plein air (Fresh-air Philosophy) 1969 oil on canvas 52 1/2 x 65 1/4 in Image courtesy of the Dorothea Tanning Foundation and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

  • Dorothea Tanning Pour Gustave l'adoré 1974 oil on canvas 45 5/8 x 35 in Image courtesy of the Dorothea Tanning Foundation and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

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