Kay Sage

Kay Sage

Style: Surrealism

Lived: June 25, 1898 - January 8, 1963 (20th century)

Nationality: USA


Katherine Linn Sage, usually referred to as Kay Sage, was born on June 25, 1898 in Albany, New York as the second daughter of a prosperous upper middle class family. Much of her youth she spent traveling around Europe with her mother, a free spirit whose ample means allowed her to indulge an unquenchable wanderlust.

After 22 years of the gypsy life, Sage settled down in Rapallo, Italy, to pursue art studies in Rome. In 1924 she met Prince Ranieri di San Faustino, an Italian nobleman who quickly became her first husband. But the life of the idle rich did not satisfy her; after ten years in the social circuit she would later call "a stagnant swamp," she separated from her husband and began to pursue her artistic ambitions in earnest.


Sage gravitated to Paris and became associated with the Surrealist movement. At first she was not precisely warmly regarded by the surrealists, probably less because of her womanhood (though they were a bit of a "boys' club") than because of her aristocratic, privileged background as the "Princess San Faustino." Around 1937 she was introduced to fellow painter Yves Tanguy by her friend Heinz Henghes and began a long-term relationship with him.

At the outbreak of World War II, Sage moved back to the United States and arranged for several of her French fellow artists to take refuge in America, including Tanguy, who would soon become her second husband.

Sage and Tanguy were married in Reno, Nevada on 17 August 1940. After the war, the couple bought an old farmhouse in Woodbury, Connecticut and converted it into an artists' studio. They would spend the rest of their lives painting there.

When Tanguy died in 1955, Sage was deeply affected. She painted less and less, her once witty poetry turned wry and cynical, and she became a virtual recluse. What little energy she could summon was spent mostly on defending Tanguy's work against the critics.


A first suicide attempt in 1959 failed. The second one succeeded, on January 8, 1963, three days after Tanguy's birthday. Her ashes were scattered on the coast of Brittany, together with those of her husband.

Perhaps inevitably, critics have had a tendency to place Sage's paintings in the shadow of those of her husband Yves Tanguy. It is true that Sage's paintings, like those of her husband show large, surreal landscapes, but the strange shapes that wander her worlds are as reminiscent of de Chirico as they are of Tanguy. A comparison of, say, Sage's Tomorrow is Never, with its draped figures rising from the mist encased by scaffolding, with Tanguy's Multiplication des Arcs, with its milling crowds of pebbles oozing around glittering, jagged blocks of light, shows two very alien, but very different universes--as different from each other as they are from our own....

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