Jean Tinguely

Jean Tinguely. Photo of the artist, year of creation unknown
Jean Tinguely. Photo of the artist, year of creation unknown

Jean Tinguely (born May 22, 1925 – died August 30, 1991) is a Swiss artist of the 20th century, one of the founders and a prominent representative of kinetic art, whose sculptures came into motion, tore apart space and self-destructed in front of the amazed audience. Jean Tinguely’s work, like the artist’s biography, began with trials and experiments, was filled with an ironic spirit of protest, developed, improved and reached a culmination – recognition, honor, awards. His moving paintings and fantastic sculptures, filled with poetry and emitting an eerie noise, have passed through time, have become a powerful performance of interaction with the modern viewer.

Jean Tinguely. Tinguely Fountain in front of the Museum of Artists in Basel
Jean Tinguely. Tinguely Fountain in front of the Museum of Artists in Basel

Jean Tinguely often said that “the only stable thing is movement. Intrigued by the effect that moving structures produced on the viewer. He challenged the concepts of static experience, remained a faithful follower of the interactive direction until the end of his life, creating ever larger and more perfect works.

Biography of Jean Tinguely

Jean Tinguely was born on May 22, 1925 in Friborg, Switzerland, into a working-class family. Almost immediately after birth, he left for Basel, where he spent his childhood. Tense relationships with parents, incessant family scandals, as well as the horrors of World War II. Which began at a young age, have become a strong precondition for the creation of dark and ominous images of future creations.

In 1943 Jean entered the School of Fine Arts in Basel. Inspired by the work of Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, the ideology of Dadaism and the message of the Russian Constructivists, he is deeply shocked by the “discovery of art in itself.”

The roof of the French Pavilion at the Montreal World Exhibition with sculptures by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle.
The roof of the French Pavilion at the Montreal World Exhibition with sculptures by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle.

Since 1945 Jean Tinguely has been working as a shop window decorator in Basel and Zurich. The attention of the young creator is attracted by “found objects”. The key components in the creative collages of the Dadaists. He combines successful finds, focuses on installations and begins to create his own aesthetics from cardboard, plywood, scrap metal and other industrial waste.

Victory. 1970. Happening Documentation.
Victory. 1970. Happening Documentation.

Artist career in Paris

In 1951 Tinguely moved to Paris. He gets close to Yves Klein and Constantin Brancusi, meets the French artist and future wife Niki de Saint Phalle, whose creative tandem will last until the end of his life.

Inspired by the freedom of the capital city and new connections, Jean Tinguely is passionately engaged in creativity. In 1954 he held his first solo exhibition at the Arno gallery (la galerie Arnaud) in Paris. His kinetic works, equipped with functional mechanisms, are in constant transformation.

Gradually, Tinguely begins to incorporate elements of self-creation and self-destruction into his works, turning them into varieties of performance. In 1959 he invents “Meta-Matiki” – drawing machines. And since the 1960s, with a passion for car racing. He uses the idea of ​​high risk and unpredictability in his works.

Jean Tinguely. Cyclops. 1967-1994. Mixed media.
Jean Tinguely. Cyclops. 1967-1994. Mixed media.

1960 was a turning point in the biography and work of Jean Tengri. By joining the group “New Realism” (Nouveau Realisme), the artist tries to connect life and art. The scope of his work is changing. Monumental works appear: fountains and multi-meter sculptures, phantasmagoric monsters and unpredictable constructions.

Since the 1970s, in the biography of Jean Tinguely, “time to collect awards” has come. The artist has been honored with all kinds of prestigious awards and titles, and also holds numerous retrospective exhibitions. The master died on August 30, 1991.

Floating water sculpture. 1980. Fountain. Tinguely Museum, Basel. Museum Tinguely
Floating water sculpture. 1980. Fountain. Tinguely Museum, Basel. Museum Tinguely

The most famous sculptures by Jean Tinguely

Not all of the artist’s works were destined to survive to this day. But many of the author’s works to this day delight connoisseurs of art in squares, parks or exhibition centers. Among the most famous sculptures by Jean Tinguely:

  • Stabile II (1948) is a wire construction, one of the first works inspired by the engineering work of the American sculptor Alexander Calder.
  • The Meta-Matic # 6 (1959) was a painting machine that critics called sardonic. Because of the tensions that existed with creativity and self-expression.
  • Hommage to New York (1960) – a massive sculpture that lasted 27 minutes at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, became a masterpiece of the kinetic art of self-destruction.
  • Stravinsky Fountain (1983) – a composition dedicated to musical works, consists of 16 sculptures. And is the result of the joint work of Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle.
  • Le Cyclop (1969-1994) is the last monumental work of Jean Tinguely, which was completed by the master’s wife after his death.

Jean Tinguely

Meta-Kandinsky I. 1956. Polychrome relief. Tinguely Museum, Basel. Museum Tinguely
Meta-Kandinsky I. 1956. Polychrome relief. Tinguely Museum, Basel. Museum Tinguely
Jean Tinguely. Martin Heidegger. From the
Jean Tinguely. Martin Heidegger. From the “Philosophers” series. 1988. Mixed media. Tinguely Museum, Basel. Museum Tinguely
Untitled. From the series
Jean Tinguely. Untitled. From the series “Baluba”. 1962. Mixed media. Tinguely Museum, Basel. Museum Tinguely
Niki de Saint Phalle. Stravinsky Fountain, Paris. 1981-1983.
Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle. Stravinsky Fountain, Paris. 1981-1983.
Jean Tinguely
Fatamorgan (Metaharmonia IV). 1985. Iron frame, wooden wheels, plastic parts, percussion instruments, electric lamps, electric motors
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