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Tacita Dean. T&I. 2006

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Tacita Dean (British, born 1965)


Photogravure on twenty-five sheets
sheet (each): 26 3/4 x 33 7/8" (68 x 86 cm); installation: 134 x 170" (340.4 x 431.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Edgar Wachenheim III Fund and Edward John Noble Foundation Fund
MoMA Number:
© 2015 Tacita Dean

The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 269

Through drawings and films, Dean makes work that is frequently characterized by a poetic sensibility and fragmented narratives exploring past and present, fact and fiction. In this monumental printed work, she addresses themes of collective memory and lost history by combining the romantic legend of ill-fated medieval lovers Tristan and Isolde (whose initials give this piece its title) with the real-life tragedy of British sailor Donald Crowhurst. Dean often uses the sea and other maritime themes in her work, including the tale of Crowhurst, which has appeared in several of her projects.

In 1968 Crowhurst sailed from England for a solo, round-the-world yacht race and never returned. In T & I Dean connects the tale of this lost sailor to the story of Tristan and Isolde—whose tragic love story also hinges on sea voyages—through her majestic depiction of a barren, rocky coastline looking seaward. This work, based on a found postcard, includes the white, cryptic notes that Dean often scribbles on her prints and drawings. Here the musings include "start" and "stage 4," clear theatrical directions, as well as fragments of a poem by "WSG" about an artist killed in an accident. The twenty-five-sheet composition suggests a cinematic narrative sequence, while reading it as a unified image has a breathtaking, visionary impact. The rich velvety texture of the photogravure medium contributes a nineteenth-century patina that is ideally suited to the intensity and foreboding melancholy of the subject.

Audio Program excerpt

Eye on Europe: Prints, Books & Multiples/1960 to Now

, October 15, 2006–January 1, 2007

Curator, Wendy Weitman: The British artist Tacita Dean is primarily a filmmaker, interested in issues of time and memory—particularly in the idea of fragmenting time.

In this very romantic image, she positions the viewer looking out towards the water over a rocky coastline, as if pining for a lost loved one. She scribbles words in white—stage directions, almost—over her images. Here, at the top left, are the letters “T&I”, the title of the work, which stands for the legend of the lovers Tristan and Isolde. Dean is also fascinated by a true and tragic story about a man named Donald Crowhurst, who attempted to go around the world in a solo yacht race, and never returned. In much of her work, Dean fuses fiction and fact—here, possibly, the medieval story of Tristan, who does get rescued, with the tragic story of this man who never came back. The twenty-five separate frames that make up this piece create a fragmented narrative, almost cinematic in effect as well.

Curator, Deborah Wye: This work was made in a very traditional technique called photogravure, which combines photography and etching. It gives photographic subject matter a lush surface.

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