Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)
Leonora Carrington was of British origin, but later became a Mexican citizen. She was well known as an original participant of the Surrealist movement of the 1930s.
Leonora Carrington was born in spring of 1917, the only daughter amongst four children. Her father was a self-made millionaire, the owner of a fabric manufacturing business. Although she was close to her Irish mother, Maureen Moorhead, Carrington was raised mostly by governesses and household help. She grew into a rebellious child and was expelled from several private Catholic academies, including New Hall School (Chelmsford), for not cooperating in “both work and play.” She was eventually sent to Mrs. Penrose Academy of Art before moving on to the rigorous program of Amedee Ozenfant’s school.
Although her father opposed her interest in fine art, he saw her talent as a vehicle for social advancement. In 1937, she was formally presented before George V at Buckingham Palace, but the experience did little for the family’s social standing as Carrington spent most of her time reading Aldous Huxley’s “Eyeless in Gaza” in protest of women not being allowed to place their own bets at the royal enclosure at Ascot.
Her family’s reluctance to let her pursue an artistic career further propelled Carrington towards it, and she became especially enamored of Surrealism after reading a copy of Herbert Read’s book “Surrealism” (1936), which was a gift from her mother. A pivotal moment came at the International Surrealist Exhibition in London that year, introducing her to the work of Man Ray, Andre Breton, Salvador Dali, and Max Ernst. Her attraction towards the much older, married Ernst was evident from the beginning, and within days, the two were a couple. The news of their affair led her father to disown her, his parting words illustrating a future of poverty and disease. Unfazed, she left for Paris with her new lover, where she met the leading figures of the modern European art world such as Picasso, Joan Miro, Leonor Fini, and Marcel Duchamp.
The couple settled in Saint Martin d’Ardeche and set up a shared atelier. Up until the time the Second World War broke out, the artists collaborated with one another often. They developed a series of sculptures of guardian animals to decorate their home.
Unfortunately, the tumult of the war finally caught up with them, and Ernst was arrested by French authorities as a “hostile alien.” He was released with the assistance of Paul Eluard and journalist Varian Fry only to be arrested again as a “degenerate artist.” It became far too dangerous for Ernst to remain in the country and he immigrated to the United States under the sponsorship of Peggy Guggenheim – who would become his wife upon his arrival in New York.
Move to Mexico
The years following the loss of Ernst were difficult for Carrington. She suffered a psychotic breakdown in Madrid, forcing her family to have her institutionalized. After three years of confinement and “convulsive” treatment, she was released and, at the encouragement of Breton, wrote about her experiences in a novel titled “Down Below.”
Unable to reconcile with living in Europe any longer, she arranged for passage out of the continent with a Mexican diplomat named Renato Leduc, who agreed to marry her in order to make traveling easier. She settled in Mexico City and became actively involved in its émigré community of artists, working prolifically while her divorce was being processed. She later married photojournalist Emerico Weisz and the couple had two sons. Carrington lived and worked in Mexico City until her death from pneumonia in May 2011.
Date of Birth: April 6, 1917
Place of Birth: Clayton-le-Woods, United Kingdom
Date of Death: May 25, 2011
Place of Death: Mexico City, Mexico
Education: Ozenfant Academy
Nationality: British; Mexican
Works Exhibited At:
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Fundacion Proa, Buenos Aires
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C.
Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey