4Dorothea Tanning . End Game (1944)

The Imagery of Chess also gave rise to a diverse, yet related, group of paintings and drawings. Some works used the chess board to map real or imagined perspectival landscapes. Others featured the chessboard grid as a basis for a new type of pictorial spatial system, perhaps presaging later Minimalist grid painting. Chess pieces were portrayed as costumed or shrouded figures, ambiguous symbols, or totemic forms. Like all Surrealist works, Dorothea Tanning’s painting End Game was to be regarded as a product of the free association of images and emotions surfacing from the subconcious. Using a chessboard as a theatrical backdrop, Tanning (who like the other Surrealists was highly anti-clerical), depicted a dramatic encounter in wich a white silk high-heel shoe (a white Queen) crushes a symbol of clerical and chessboard authority, a black Bishop, represented only by his miter. Tanning, herself, appears as the white Queen in a painting that Muriel Streeter  created especially for Levy’s exhibition, The Chess Queens, wich also portrays Streeter as the black Queen.”

Larry List in The Imagery of Chess Revisited Exhibition Brochure (The Noguchi Museum, 2005)


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“The sculpture [The King Playing with the Queen] was originally conceived in the summer of 1944 while Ernst and Dorothea Tanning were holidaying in Great River, Long Island. Ernst presented the plaster version to his friend Robert Motherwell, who was also staying nearby, as Motherwell recalled: “Max Ernst made some haunting sculpture in white plaster, including The King Playing with the Queen. Angry at its general rejection, and moved by my admiration, he gave me The King … on the spot. I barely managed to get it into my little Nash convertible” (quoted in H. H. Arnason & Dore Ashton, Robert Motherwell, New York, 1982, p. 106). In 1953 Jean and Dominique de Menil arranged for the work to be cast in bronze by the Modern Art Foundry and Ernst arranged for Motherwell to receive a bronze cast as an acknowledgement of his safekeeping of the plaster and in testament to the friendship between the two artists.”



2Man Ray . Chess Set (1945)

“This chess set is a modified version of one that Philadelphia-born artist Man Ray designed between about 1920 and 1924. He altered the set for the 1944–45 exhibition The Imagery of Chess at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York, where he displayed the newly designed pieces in silver plate and oxidized silver-plated brass. After the exhibition, the set was issued in a limited edition of six, each made of wood and signed and dated by Man Ray.”

Philadelphia Museum of Art


5Carol Janeway . Chess Set (1944)

“While these ideas ultimately proved unworkable, ceramist Carol Janeway succeeded in early 1944 in producing a chess set that maintained elements of traditional sets but was more modern in its design and sold it to a wide audience through upscale stores in New York and Los Angeles. Her pieces, inexpensive to produce, were made of brightly colored glazed ceramic and were half the size of those by other designers. A version of the chess set was displayed in The Imagery of Chess.”

Larry List in The Imagery of Chess Revisited Exhibition Brochure (The Noguchi Museum, 2005)


1David Hare . Magician’s Game (original 1944 / cast 1946)

“Two major sculptures made specifically for the 1944-45 exhibition were by Max Ernst and David Hare. These were shown in their original plaster states, as wartime restrictions made bronze for casting artworks scarce and expensive. Each depicts a fantastic being playing a game at a table, with inspiration coming from medieval chess lore, Arthurian legends, and Greek mythology, as well as the real-life romantic conflicts within the artist’s social circle. For The King Playing with the Queen, Ernst employed the same approach he used in his chess-set design – combining and refining cast-plaster forms from his surroundings – while it is more likely that Hare’s forms originated in the artist’s imagination.”

Larry List in The Imagery of Chess Revisited Exhibition Brochure (The Noguchi Museum, 2005)


4Arshile Gorky . Untitled (Study for a Delicate Game) (c. 1946)

“After participating in The Imagery of Chess, New York abstract painter, Arshile Gorky, was given 4 subsequent solo shows at the Levy Gallery. His chess show work is unknown due to a fire that destroyed his studio in 1946. It is likely that he contributed something similar to this known work from 1946, such as Untitled (Study for a Delicate Game).”

World Chess Hall of Fame


3Richard Filipowsky . Chess Set (Pieces) (1942)

“This chess set was among the artist-designed works shown at The Imagery of Chess exhibition held at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1944–45, and it received favorable reviews in Newsweek and Art Digest. The nineteen-year-old Filipowski designed the simple, elegant chess pieces and board at the instruction of László Moholy-Nagy, his professor at the Institute of Design in Chicago. The two sides are differentiated by the pieces on one side having a small dot drilled into their undersides and filled with black paint. The board was not executed at the time of the exhibition; the one seen here was produced in 2004 to the artist’s specifications.”

Philadelphia Museum of Art