6 April 1917|
Clayton-le-Woods, Lancashire, England, UK
|Died||25 May 2011
Mexico City, Mexico
|Children||Gabriel and Pablo Weisz|
Leonora Carrington OBE (6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011) was a British-born Mexican artist, surrealist painter, and novelist. She lived most of her adult life in Mexico City, and was one of the last surviving participants in the Surrealist movement of the 1930s. Leonora Carrington was also a founding member of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Mexico during the 1970s.
Carrington was born in Clayton Green, Chorley, Lancashire, England. Her father was a wealthy textile manufacturer, and her mother, Maureen (née Moorhead), was Irish. She had three brothers: Patrick, Gerald, and Arthur.
Educated by governesses, tutors, and nuns, she was expelled from two schools, including New Hall School, Chelmsford, for her rebellious behaviour, until her family sent her to Florence, where she attended Mrs Penrose's Academy of Art. In 1927, at the age of ten, she saw her first Surrealist painting in a Left Bank gallery and later met many Surrealists, including Paul Éluard. Her father opposed her career as an artist, but her mother encouraged her. She returned to England and was presented at Court, but according to her, she brought a copy of Aldous Huxley's Eyeless in Gaza (1936) to read instead. In 1935, she attended the Chelsea School of Art in London for one year, and with the help of her father's friend Serge Chermayeff, she was able to transfer to Ozenfant Academy in London (1935–38).
She became familiar with Surrealism from a copy of Herbert Read's book, Surrealism (1936), which was given to her by her mother, but she received little encouragement from her family to forge an artistic career. Matthew Gale, a curator at Tate Modern, singled out the Surrealist poet and patron Edward James as the only champion of her work in Britain. James bought many of her paintings and arranged a show in 1947 for her work at Pierre Matisse's Gallery in New York. Some works are still hanging at his former family home, currently West Dean College in West Dean, West Sussex.
Association with Max Ernst
In 1936, Leonora saw the work of the German surrealist Max Ernst at the International Surrealist Exhibition in London and was attracted to the Surrealist artist before she even met him. In 1937, Carrington met Ernst at a party held in London. The artists bonded and returned together to Paris, where Ernst promptly separated from his wife. In 1938, leaving Paris, they settled in Saint Martin d'Ardèche in southern France. The new couple collaborated and supported each other's artistic development. The two artists created sculptures of guardian animals (Ernst created his birds and Carrington created a plaster horse head) to decorate their home in Saint Martin d'Ardèche. In 1939, Carrington painted a portrait of Max Ernst, as a tribute to their relationship.
With the outbreak of World War II Ernst, who was German, was arrested by the French authorities for being a "hostile alien". With the intercession of Paul Éluard, and other friends, including the American journalist Varian Fry, he was discharged a few weeks later.
Soon after the Nazis invaded France, Ernst was arrested again, this time by the Gestapo, because his art was considered by the Nazis to be "degenerate". He managed to escape and, leaving Carrington behind, fled to America with the help of Peggy Guggenheim, who was a sponsor of the arts.
After Ernst's arrest, Carrington was devastated and fled to Spain. Paralyzing anxiety and growing delusions culminated in a final breakdown at the British Embassy in Madrid. Her parents intervened and had her hospitalised. She was given "convulsive therapy" and was treated with the drugs cardiazol, a powerful anxiolytic drug (eventually banned by some authorities, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)), and Luminal, a barbiturate.
After being released into the care of a nurse who took her to Lisbon, Carrington ran away and sought refuge in the Mexican Embassy. Meanwhile Ernst who had been extricated from Europe with the help of Guggenheim, had married her in 1941. That marriage ended a few years later but Ernst and Carrington were unable to resume their relationship.
Three years after being released from the asylum and with the encouragement of André Breton, Carrington wrote about her psychotic experience in her novel Down Below. She also created art to depict her experience, such as her Portrait of Dr. Morales and Map of Down Below.
Following the escape to Lisbon, Carrington arranged passage out of Europe with Renato Leduc, a Mexican Ambassador. Leduc was a friend of Pablo Picasso, and agreed to marry Carrington just for the travel arrangements.[clarification needed] Events from this period continued to inform her work. She lived and worked in Mexico after spending part of the 1960s in New York City. While in Mexico, she was asked, in 1963, to create a mural which she named El Mundo Magico de los Mayas, and which was influenced by folk stories from the region. The mural is now located in the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.
Carrington designed Mujeres conscienscia (1973), a poster, for the Women's Liberation movement in Mexico, depicting a ‘new eve’. Carrington, personally and primarily focused on psychic freedom, understood that such freedom could not be achieved until political freedom is also accomplished. Through these beliefs Carrington understood that “greater cooperation and sharing of knowledge between politically active women in Mexico and North America” was important for emancipation. Carrington’s political commitment led to her winning the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Women’s Caucus for Art convention in New York in 1986.
I didn't have time to be anyone's muse... I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.—Leonora Carrington
Second marriage and children
She later married Imre Weisz (also known as Emerico, or by the nickname "Cziki"), a photographer and the darkroom manager for Robert Capa during the Spanish Civil War. They had two sons: Gabriel, an intellectual and a poet, and Pablo, a doctor and Surrealist artist.
Themes and major works
"I painted for myself...I never believed anyone would exhibit or buy my work."
Leonora Carrington was not interested in the writings of Sigmund Freud, as were other Surrealists in the movement. She instead focused on magical realism and alchemy and used autobiographical detail and symbolism as the subjects of her paintings. Carrington was interested in presenting female sexuality as she experienced it rather than as that of male surrealists’ characterization of female sexuality. Carrington’s work of the 1940s is focused on the underlying theme of women’s role in the creative process.
In Self-Portrait (1938), Carrington offers her own interpretation of female sexuality by looking toward her own sexual reality rather than theorizing on the subject, as was custom by other Surrealists in the movement. Carrington’s move away from the characterization of female sexuality subverted the traditional male role of the Surrealist movement. Self-Portrait (1938) also offers insight into Carrington’s interest in the ‘alchemical transformation of matter and her response to the Surrealist cult of desire as a source of creative inspiration.’ The hyena depicted in Self-Portrait (1938) joins both male and female into a whole, metaphoric of the worlds of the night and the dream.
The first important exhibition of her work appeared in 1947, at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York City. Carrington was invited to show her work in an international exhibition of Surrealism, where she was the only female English professional painter. She became a celebrity almost overnight. In Mexico, she authored and successfully published several books.
The first major exhibition of her work in UK for twenty years took place at Chichester's Pallant House Gallery, West Sussex, from 17 June to 12 September 2010, as part of a season of major international exhibitions called Surreal Friends that celebrated women's role 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).
In 2013 Carrington was the subject of a major retrospective at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. Titled The Celtic Surrealist, it was curated by Sean Kissane and examined Carrington's Irish background to illuminate many cultural, political and mythological themes present in her work.
Carrington's art often depicts horses, as in her Self-Portrait (Inn of the Dawn Horse) and the painting The Horses of Lord Candlestick. Her fascination with drawing horses began in her childhood. Horses appear in her writings as well. In her first published short story, "The House of Fear", Carrington portrays a horse in the role of a psychic guide to a young heroine. In 1935, Carrington's first essay, "Jezzamathatics or Introduction to the Wonderful Process of Painting", was published before her story "The Seventh Horse". Carrington often used codes of words to dictate interpretation in her artwork. "Candlestick" is a code that she commonly used to represent her family, and the word "lord" for her father.
In 2005, Christie's auctioned Carrington's Juggler (El Juglar), and the realised price was US$713,000, setting a new record for the highest price paid at auction for a living surrealist painter. Carrington painted portraits of the telenovela actor Enrique Álvarez Félix, son of actress María Félix, a friend of Carrington's first husband.
In 2015, Leonara Carrington was honoured through a Google doodle commemorating her 98th birthday. The doodle was based on her painting, How Doth the Little Crocodile, drawn in surrealist style. The painting was inspired by a poem in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and this painting was eventually turned into Cocodrilo located on Paseo de la Reforma.
- 2013–2014: Leonora Carrington: The Celtic Surrealist, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland (solo)
- 2008: Talismanic Lens, Frey Norris Gallery, San Francisco, CA (solo)
- 2007: Surrealism: Dreams on Canvas, Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, NY
- 2003: Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and 20th Century Mexican Art: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL
- 2001–2002: Surrealism: Desire Unbound, The Tate, London, England and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
- 1999: Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism and Self-Representation, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Surrealism: Two Private Eyes/The Nesuhi Ertegun and Daniel Filipacchi Collections, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
- 1993: Regards des Femmes, Musée d'Art Moderne, Lieja, France
Sujeto-Objeto, Museo Regional de Guanajuato, Guanajuato y Museo de Monterrey, Moneterrey, Mexico
- 1991: Galería de Arte del Auropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México, Mexico City, Mexico (solo)
Serpentine Gallery, London, England (solo) Sainsbury, Norwich, England (solo) Arnolfini, Bristol, England (solo) The Mexican Museum, San Francisco, CA (solo)
- 1990: Art Company, Leeds, England (solo)
Brewster Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
- 1989: Museo Nacional de la Estampa, INBA, Mexico (solo)
- 1987: Brewster Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Art Space Mirage, Tokyo, Japan (solo) Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
- 1970: Impressionism to Surrealism, Worthing Art Gallery, Worthing, England
- 1969: The Surrealists, Byron Gallery, New York, NY
Galerie Pierre, Paris, France (solo) Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Sala Nacional, Mexico (solo) Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico (solo) Galería de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City, Mexico (solo)
- 1968: Artistas Británicos en México 1800/1968, Instituto Anglo-Mexicano de Cultura, Mexico
- 1967: IX Bienal de Pintura, São Paulo, Brazil
- 1966: Surrealism: A State of Mind, Universidad de California, Santa Barbara, CA
Surrealismo y Arte Fantástico en México, Galeria Universitaria, Aristos, Mexico 1965: Galería Antonio Souza, Mexico City, Mexico (solo) Instituto Cultural Anglo-Mexicano, Mexico (solo) Galería Clardecor, Mexico City, Mexico (solo)
- 1963: Pinturas de la colección de Edward James, Worthing Art Gallery, Worthing, England
- 1961: El Retrato Mexicano Contemporáneo, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico
- 1959: Eros Galerie, Daniel Cordier, Paris, France
- 1956: Galería de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City, Mexico (solo)
- 1943: Exposición de 31 mujeres artistas, Arte de este siglo, New York, NY
First Papers of Surrealism, Madison Avenue Gallery, New York, NY 20th Century Portraits, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
- 1942: Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
- 1938: Esposition du Surréalisme, Galerie Robert, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, Galerie Beaux-Arts, Paris, France 
|Library resources about
|By Leonora Carrington|
- La Maison de la Peur, H. Parisot, 1938 – with illustrations by Max Ernst
- Une chemise de nuit de flanelle, Libr. Les Pas Perdus, 1951
- El Mundo Mágico 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); Penguin Books, Limited, 2005, ISBN 9780141187990
- 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)
- Down Below (Dutton, 1988)
- Poniatowska, Elena. Lilus Kikus and Other Stories (1954)
- Jodorowsky, Alejandro. The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky (2008).
- Poniatowska, Elena. Leonora (2011)
- Kissane Sean. Leonora Carrington The Celtic Surrealist (2013)
Artwork by Carrington
- Self-Portrait (Inn of the Dawn Horse), 1936–1937, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection
- Portrait of Max Ernst, 1939 (private collection)
- The Horses of Lord Candlestick, 1938 (private collection)
- The Meal of Lord Candlestick, 1938
- The Inn of the Dawn Horse (Self-Portrait), 1939 (first major Surrealist work) Metropolitan Museum of Art
- The Temptation of St. Anthony, 1947, Museo del Prado, Madrid
- Mark Stevenson; Associated Press (26 May 2011). "Surrealist Leonora Carrington dies at 94 in Mexico City". www.seattlepi.com.
- "Leonora Carrington dead at 94". Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- Chadwick, Whitney (1986). "Leonora Carrington: Evolution of a Feminist Consciousness". Women's Art Journal: 37–42.
- Leo Carrington & Sons website
- See Carrington's "El Mundo Magico de Los Mayas".
- Robinson, Michael. Surrealism (Fulham: Star Fire, 2006), pg. 312.
- Aberth, Susan (2010). Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art. Lund Humphries. pp. 11, 20–43, 149.
- William Grimes (26 May 2011). "Leonora Carrington Is Dead at 94; Artist and Author of Surrealist Work". The New York Times.
- New Hall School website; retrieved 27 May 2011
- Carrington Leonara. "Carrington Leonara bio". Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- Leonora and me (accessed online 4 April 2008)
- Max Ernst profile; accessed online 21 July 2007.
- Gaensbauer, Deborah. "Gaensbauer". p. 275.
- Hertz, Erich. "Breton". p. 97.
- Gaensbauer, Deborah (1994). "Voyages of Discovery: Leonora Carrington's Magical Prose". Women's Studies 23 (3): 271. doi:10.1080/00497878.1994.9979027.
- Carrington, Leonora (1964). El mundo mágico de los Mayas. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- Aberth, Susan; Barnet-Sanchez, Holly; Carrington, Leonora (Autumn 1992). "Leonora Carrington: The Mexican Years, 1943–1985". Art Journal 51 (3): 83–85. doi:10.2307/777352. JSTOR 777352.
- Chadwick, Whitney (2012). Women, Art, & Society (5 ed.). New York: Thames & Hudson.
- Leonora Carrington's quotes. "quotes". Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- The Transcendence of the Image (Tate online; retrieved 18 November 2008).
- "Leonora Carrington's Death". Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- Chadwick, Whitney (2012). Women, Art, and Society (5 ed.). New York: Thames & Hudson.
- Chadwick, Whitney (1986). "Leonora Carrington: Evolution of a Feminist". Women's Art Journal: 37–42.
- Leonora Carrington: The Mexican Years, 1943–1985 (University of New Mexico Press, 1998).
- "Cocodrilo, de Leonora Carrington, posa en su nuevo lecho de agua sobre Reforma". La Jornada. UNAM. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
- "Leonora Carrington: The Celtic Surrealist". Áras Nua-Ealaíne na hÉireann. Áras Nua-Ealaíne na hÉireann. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
- Chadwick, Whitney (1986). "Leonora Carrington: Evolution of a Feminist Consciousness". Women's Art Journal 7 (1): 38. JSTOR 1358235.
- Christies website entry
- Portrait of Enrique Alvarez Félix by Leonora Carrington
- Portrait of Enrique dedicated to his mother
- Iyengar, Rishi (6 April 2015). "New Google Doodle Honors Surrealist Painter Leonora Carrington". Time. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
- "Leonora Carrington: Surrealist painter's birthday honoured with a Google doodle". The Independent. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
- "Leonora Carrington (British, 1917-2011)". Artnet.
- Orenstein, Leonora Carrington ; illustrated by Pablo Weisz ; translated [from the Spanish] by Rochelle Holt ; foreword by Gloria (1975). The oval lady, other stories : six surreal stories. Santa Barbara: Capra Press. ISBN 978-0884960362.
- Weisz-Carrington, Leonora Carrington ; ill. by Pablo (1976). The hearing trumpet. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 978-0-7100-8637-2.
- Carrington, Leonora (1977). The stone door. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0312762100.
- Kerrigan, Leonara Carrington ; translations by Kathrine Talbot & Anthony (1988). The seventh horse, and other tales (1st ed.). New York: E.P. Dutton. ISBN 0525483845.
- Talbot, Leonora Carrington ; introduction by Marina Warner ; translations by Kathrine; Warner, Marina (1988). The house of fear : notes from Down below (1st ed.). New York: E.P. Dutton. ISBN 0525246487.
- The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky : The Creator of el Topo. Park Street Press. 2008. ISBN 9781283215367.
- Poniatowska, Elena. Leonora (1a ed. impresa en México. ed.). México, D.F.: Seix Barral. ISBN 978-6070706325.
- Kissane, Sean. Leonora Carrington The Celtic Surrealist. New York: DAP. ISBN 9781938922206.
- Chadwick, Whitney. Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement (Thames and Hudson, New York, 1985)
- Sills, Leslie & Whitman. A. "Visions: stories of women artists (Morton Grove, Illinois, 1993)
- Aberth, Susan L. (2010). Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art. Ashgate/Lund Humphries. ISBN 978-1-84822-056-0.
- Moorhead, Joanna. Another world (article about Carrington), Daily Telegraph (24 April 2010)
- Van Raay, Stefan, Moorhead, Joanna and Arcq, Teresa. "Surreal Friends: Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Kati Horna" (Lund Humphries in association with Pallant House Gallery, 2010)
- Chadwick, Whitney. “Leonora Carrington: Evolution of a Feminist Consciousness”, Women's Art Journal, Vol. 7, no. 1: (1986; accessed 21 February 2012), pg. 38
- Hertz, Erich. "Disruptive Testimonies: The Stakes of Surrealist Experience in Breton and Carrington." Symposium Vol. 64, no. 2: (2010). Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed 29 March 2012)
- Susan. “Leonora Carrington: The Mexican years, 1943–1985.” Art Journal Vol. 51, no. 3: (Autumn 1992; accessed 1 April 2012) pgs. 83–85
- Leonora Carrington at Wikiart.org
- Leonora Carrington’s Surrealist Paintings at disinfo.com
- Obituary in New York Times, 27 May 2011
- Dos Surrealistas en México, 15 January 2006
- Works by Carrington, at ArtCyclopedia
- "Writer Joanna Moorhead goes in search of her long-lost cousin", The Guardian
- Leonora Carrington, "A Woman of Surrealism" (last accessed: 25 November 2014)
- Documents on Leonora Carrington in the ICAA Documents Project at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston