The Surrealist Art of Bridget Bate Tichenor

The Surrealist art movement bloomed in Mexico. It became a haven for artists fleeing World War II, and these expatriates found a thriving and open society that allowed them to work in peace. Furthermore, the confluence of many different cultures that existed in Mexico opened more avenues for these artists to explore and experiment with different themes and ideas in painting. One artist who arrived in Mexico seeking these experiences was Bridget Bate Tichenor.

Bate Tichenor spent a significant portion of her adult life working as a model, fashion editor, and socialite in Paris and New York City. However, in the1950s she abandoned this life in order to seek spiritual fulfillment in Mexico, where she spent the rest of her life. While living there, Bate Tichenor produced an oeuvre of fantastical paintings that were characterized by rounded landscapes populated by strange figures with pale faces and large eyes.

Stylistically, Bate Tichenor’s work is very similar to that of fellow expatriate Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. Both employed a web of visual symbols including lines, patterns, and colors. However, Bate Tichenor’s paintings tend to bring a different level of energy, more bold and vibrant. She also used the age-old Italian tempera technique to prepare her paint, giving her work an extra degree of individuality.

Although she used the artistic techniques of the Italian Renassiance, her art was inspired by elements of the occult and mythology. This was in keeping with the obsession with Magical Realism that many Surrealist painters harbored. For Surrealists, these magical scenes were a means of self expression and exploration. For Bate Tichenor, art was a way to reflect on her own life experiences. Her paintings represent her personal spiritual journey. According to my research, Bate Tichenor’s used her art to express her belief in “ancestral spirits and to achieve self-realization” (note: I don’t normally quote Wikipedia, but I did in this case). She believed that her art allowed her to access a raw, unfiltered part of herself, beneath the masks that society imposed. Her visual language was all her own, using symbols and references in her art that were intelligible only to herself.

The quest for self-realization was a common one for Surrealist artists, who used their art to express their own emotions and psychological truths. Living in Mexico seemed to bring out this drive for self-realization in artists; as Surrealist writer Andre Breton noted, “Mexico is a surreal place where the people live surreally.” And, in Mexico, Bate Tichenor found the spiritual and social energy that she needed to create art.

Originally published at on August 7, 2020.




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