Leonore Carrington in Merida

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:




Filed under Vida Latina, Writing

14 responses to “Leonore Carrington in Merida

  1. kizziah burton

    Also, it seems.the.video has.been blocked. Does anyone still have access? And Thankyou for the lively article and all the comments. So exciting to find others who love l.c.

  2. kizziah burton

    Dear Joanna, What do you mean she is debilitated? She was fine only a year.or so ago. A mutual friend visited.her. what has.happened?

  3. B

    Hi Joanna, thanks for the great article on Leonora. I’ve been a big fan of hers after studying art years ago and am now a writer, she has had a tremendous influence on me.

  4. calixto seca


    Do you know Leonoras mailing address?


  5. Some of the sculptures, but not all, have a plate below, giving the date. If my memory is correct, the dated ones were post 2000.

    For the fans out there, I suggest you check out this lovely video of an interview with Carrington.

    • Yes, she is amazing. I have never met her but I do know that Elena Poniatowka has a new book about her life and art. I imagine it is available on Amazon or soon will be.

  6. Carolyn

    Hello Joanna,
    Do you know long will the sculptures be in Mérida?
    They must be so much more powerful in person>

  7. Interesting. Never heard of her. Who´s the guy in the photo with her?

    • Hi Felipe, Leonore Carrington is not widely known because she has wanted it this way. However in the art world, she has great prestige. The man in the photo is Max Ernst. The two of them were part of the 20th century’s elite group of artists, musicians, dancers and writers. In Mexico, their contemporaries were Kahlo, Rivera, et al… In Europe, Picasso and company; in the USA, the wealthy patrons of the arts.

  8. Mary E. Moore

    Thanks, Joanna. I am in awe that this talented woman is creating these fabulous sculptures in her 90s! And how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy them in the lovely setting of the Paseo Montejo. What a city Merida is! Kudos to the mayor for arranging to have them displayed here, and “gracias” to the sponsors who helped to make it possible.

    • Yes, she is an amazing artist although I doubt the scuptures are too recent. She is quite debilitated now. But who knows… I’ll try and find out when they were made.

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