Woman artist, Kay Sage 1898-1963

edited: January 21, 2017
The Wikiart app is partially defunct on my phone. I can’t browse through the artists section any longer; if I try, the app crashed. I am hesitant to delete and re-install because I have gathered a nice collection of favorites, and I don’t want to have them erased :\

I have been perusing the Wikiart app sporadically for a while now. The highlighted artworks, though brilliant and famous, rotate amongst themselves, and quickly one realizes that she has to go beyond the highlights to see something else.

Fortunately, Wikiart has a vast and valuable catalogue of artists, in alphabetical order, that one can browse through. I have never seen such an accessible list of artists.

It’s a whirlwind at first, just scrolling down the list and trying to figure out where to start. I started in reverse order but then lost track. Recently, I found myself going through women artists, and was deeply moved. First, by how much I had to scroll to find a woman’s name in the sea of men’s; and second because through the women’s artwork, I felt a feminine being, as affected by societies and cultures throughout the ages, resonate with my thoughts, feelings, and experience.

One of the women artists that I think is exceedingly striking is Kay Sage. At first impression, Sage seems to be at the nexus of Dali, de Chirico, and Magritte (please excuse all my male references.) 

Dali because of the lines and horizon-perspective; de Chirico due to the colors, understatement, and feelings of anxiety, vastness; and Magritte because of the subject matter and the cerebral component.

I have yet to read Sage’s biographical background, but her visual works evoke in me a sense of calm but also a sense of uncertainty, that causes a bit of anxiety and apprehension. It’s akin to an uncertainty that could be felt when Trump was announced president and reality just becomes surreal, and everything stopped and you just had to have a moment to take in everything. Well, that example is a bit strong because the pensiveness in Sage’s work lasts longer than the pensiveness one probably felt after Trump’s win; for the latter, I’m sure after 1 or 2 seconds one just wanted to punch a wall or punch Trump in the face. So the physical reaction is muted, but the pensiveness at the cusp of uncertainty, when one is perhaps at the boundary of real and surreal, is the the kind I feel with Sage’s work.


Pensiveness, cerebral activity, and though

Margin of Silence (i.1, below) screams. But it is not a vocal scream. It’s visual, that goes unmediated from the eyes straight into the subconscious. It stirs something in the cerebrum that is faint- a whisper, that is fighting to get out un-compromised. It’s a truth, or a type of truth, that is there at the core, that reveals something an event or a phenomenon (or life), that is accessed through that pensiveness, and at the real/surreal. It’s something that straddles both, and that is all that it does; it doesn’t exist for one or the other. It may take a different form at that point.

image.1 Margin of Silence, Kay Sage 1942; Wikiart 

The cerebral provoking affect of this artwork (above) has a form that is very similar to the sculpture, The Thinker by Auguste Rodin (image.1.1, image.1.2. see below). The form in blue looks as if she’s resting her head on the back of her hand, from the profile perspective. I find this layered overlap quite interesting.

image.1.1 The Thinker, Auguste Rodin 1902; Wikiart

image.1.2 The Thinker, Auguste Rodin 1902; Wikiart

Going back to the three artists I mentioned earlier: Dali, de Chirico, and Magritte, there is also a pensiveness and cerebral aspect to each of their works. With Dali, the cerebral-ness of Dali’s symbols can be found in his use of symbols that references the science of his day. Prior to this time, symbols were pulled from religious texts (Christianity). Dali changed the reference point to science, which could represent thought instead of faith. Dali’s works initiate a mental process within the view, whereby the viewer’s brain gears into action to understand what the painting is saying.

mage.2, I Saw Three Cities. Kay Sage, 1944; Wikiart

image.2.1, The Burning Giraffe, Salvador Dali, 1937; Wikipedia 

mage.3, Journey To Go, Kay Sage, 1943; Wikiart

image.3.1, The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali, 1931; Wikipedia 

Above are two paintings by Sage (image.2, image.3) and two by Dali (image.2.1, image.3.1) and the first two, first by Sage and second by Dali, have an extremely similar form. I Saw Three Cities by Sage is flowing to the left as something solid is holding down the center, and The Burning Giraffe by Dali is also drifting to the left, though form is explicitly feminine. The third and fourth paintings, by Sage and Dali respectively are explicitly about time. Journey is through a passage of time, and memories are of a time past. This thematic connection between the paintings is further enhanced the form of the main figure in Sage’s painting, and it’s horizontal counterpart in Dali’s paintings.
Magritte explicitly spoke to the cerebrum by his proclamation (and the blunt necessity) to read “This is a pipe” He practiced mental exercised of the deepest existential, nihilist, mesmerizing kind. Sage’s focus is penetrating, whereas Magritte’s is like a prism. They both challenge and excite the cells.

Aspects of cerebral-ness in de Chirico’s work is more atmospheric, and emotive; and it is equally present in Sage’s work. The psychological feeling of the outside and inner space is made potent in both, de Chirio’s and Sage’s, works.

mage.4, The Fourteen Daggers, Kay Sage, 1942; Wikiart

image.4.1. Piazza d’Italia, de Chirico, 1913; Internet

image.5, The Unicorns Came Down to the Sea, Kay Sage, 1948; Wikiart

mage.5.1, On the Contrary, Kay Sage, 1952; Wikiart

image.5.2, The Melancholy Departure, de Chirico, 1916; Tate



Shadows, not just shading, are prominent in more than a few of de Chirico’s paintings. Within the limited amount of Sage’s work I have seen, I caught a good portion that made the same use of shadows and lighting. Beyond the mere presence of shared technique, the technique also produces a similar effect on the atmosphere of the paintings. Moreover, the atmosphere in de Chirico is connected to atmosphere within Magritte’s works by the works of Sage.

So what is it about Sage and the feminity that I resonate with in her works? It’s the feeling of subjectivity that I get solely from her, out of the all surrealist artists I discussed. It doesn’t feel existential or outside of anything. It doesn’t seem like a grand gesture, though there most certainly is. But this grand gesture is calm and negligent fanfare.