Leonore Carrington was born in England to a very wealthy family. She was however a rebel of the most strident style. Governesses, tutors and nuns all did their best to tame the young Leonore; she was expelled from two schools for her rebellious behavior. In desperation her family sent her to Florence where she attended Mrs. Penrose’s Academy of Art. Her father did not want an artist’s career for her, but her mother reportedly felt that it was better than some of “the alternatives”.
She returned to England and was presented at Court. She shocked the other debutantes because she brought a book by Aldous Huxley “Eyeless in Gaza” and read it avidly when she was supposed to be gaga over the royal audience. In London she attended the Chelsea School of Art.
The Surrealist painters of the Left Bank in 1927 (who she first met when she was ten years old), were her first mentors, especially Paul Eluard (best known as the author of Liberté)
Leonore Carrington found England to be extremely constricting although it was in London in 1937 that she first met Max Ernst. They became lovers and together they settled in the south of France. The couple stimulated each other’s artistic development. With the outbreak of World War II, Max Ernst was arrested by French authorities for being a “hostile alien”. Thanks to the intercession of Paul Eluard and American journalist Varian Fry, he was released.
Once the Nazis were in charge, he was arrested again but managed to flee to America with help from Peggy Guggenheim
After Ernst’s arrest, The devastated Carrington fled to Spain. Terrible anxiety and growing delusions reached the crisis point at the British embassy in Madrid. Her parents intervened and had her institutionalized. While under the care of a nurse who took her to Lisbon, Carrington ran away and sought refuge in the Mexican Embassy.
She arranged passage out of Europe with a Mexican diplomat Renato Leduc, a friend of Picasso. To help Leonore, he agreed to marry her. That tumuluous period affected her work forever. She lived in New York during the 1960s but otherwise has built her career and spent her life in Mexico City
Even though she married Emericko Weisz and had two sons, in 1983 she said, “I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse… I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.” Their son Gabriel Weisz is a controversial intellectual and their other son, Pablo is a surrealist painter and a doctor
From June 17 to September 12, 2010 as part of a season of major international exhibitions called Surreal Friends, celebrating the place of women in the Surrealist movement. Her work was exhibited alongside pieces by her close friends the Spanish painter Remedios Varo (1908–1963) and the Hungarian photographer Kati Horna (1912-2000).
Carrington is one of the last living Surrealist painters of her era. In 2005, Christie’s auctioned “Jugglers” for $713,000. This set a new record for the highest price paid at auction for a living surrealist painter.
In Mexico she authored and successfully published several books.
- La Maison de la Peur (1938) – with illustrations by Max Ernst
- Une chemise de nuit de flanelle (1951)
- El Mundo Magico de Los Mayas (Museo Nacional de Antropología, 1964) – illustrated by Leonora Carrington.
- The Oval Lady: Surreal Stories (Capra Press, 1975)
- The Hearing Trumpet (Routledge, 1976)
- The Stone Door (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1977)
- The Seventh Horse and Other Tales (Dutton, 1988)
- The House of Fear (Trans. K. Talbot and M. Warner. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1988)
- The Hearing Trumpet (Boston: Exact Change, 1996)
- Down Below ( Chicago,Black Swan Press, 1972; renewed edition 1988)
An exhibition of her sculpture (lent by Fernando Chico Pardo) is currently on display along Merida’s Paseo de Montejo.
An important Mexico City journalist / novelist (not to be named) who is a friend of Carrington is currently writing her life story.
I predict that once the public becomes more aware of this important artist and the originality of her work, she will take her place alongside other innovative Mexican female personalities such as Frida Kahlo.
Black and white image of the young Leonore: www.mezclacultural.blogspot.com
Image of “Jugglers”: www.christies.com
Black and white image of Leonre Carrington and Max Ernst: http://4.bp.blogspot.com
For readers who want to see some wonderful photographs of Carrington’s sculptures currently on display along Merida’s Paseo de Montejo, go to Bruce & Mary’s: