Leonora Carrington

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Leonora Carrington was a influential British-Mexican artist and author, who is known as one of the leading female artists of the Surrealist movement.

Leonora Carrington was born on April 6, 1917, in Clayton Green, Lancashire, England. She hailed from a prosperous and affluent family of merchants, her father was a wealthy industrialists. Leonora, along with her three brothers, grew up in an indulging and protected environment in their house, Crooksey Hall. She received her early education from a series of tutors and nuns, however, her rebellious streak and mischievous habits got her expelled from several notable institutions. After numerous expulsions, she was sent to attend Mrs Penrose’s Academy of Art, in Florence, Italy.

Leonora’s father did not approve of her artistic ambitions and openly opposed her career choices, however, with her mother’s encouragement and support, she returned to England and enrolled herself at the Chelsea School of Art in London. A year later, she got herself transferred to Ozenfant Academy and London, and continued her art education from there over the next three years. In 1927, Leonora began her lifelong passion and fascination with Surreal art, it all began when she her first Surrealist painting at the Left Bank gallery. Soon, she began devouring Surrealistic literature and art, and began frequenting the social circles of prominent Surrealists, such as Paul Eluard.

In 1937, Leonora met Max Ernst, one of the pioneers of the Surrealist movement, at an International Surrealist exhibition that took place in London. For Leonora, who had heard plenty of praise about Max Ernst and was already a fan of his work, their first encounter was nothing short than love at first sight. The two soon formed a strong and passionate bond, and moved to Paris, and later, to the Saint Martin d’Ardeche, Provence, South of France. They began working together, the artworks they produced were used to decorate their home. Shortly after the Nazi occupation of France, Max Ernst was arrested, however, he was released after the unanimous efforts of several influential friends including Paul Eluard and Varian Fry. However, the Gestapo arrested him again in 1940, and a devastated Carrington barely managed to flee to Spain.

She experienced paralyzing anxiety and acute depression accompanied with severe bouts of delusions and hallucinations that eventually lead to a complete nervous breakdown, and Leonora ended up institutionalized at a medical care facility with the help of her family. She was given powerful shock inducing drugs, and her experience at the institution had a profound influence on her art and writings. Carrington managed to escape to the Mexican Embassy from Lisbon, and meanwhile, Max Ernst also managed to escape from Europe, however, the two failed to reconnect after the tragedies they had suffered. Some of her works that have been influenced by the miseries she had to suffer include her novels and paintings, “Down Below”, “Map of Down Below” and “Portrait of Dr Morales”.

Leonora worked out a deal with a Mexican diplomat who offered her marriage as a part of the arranged passage out of Europe. She settled in Mexico, and her work took the United States by the storm. By 1947, with her iconic and critically acclaimed show at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, her Surrealist work garnered immense praise and fame, establishing her as a prominent Surrealist artist.

Leonora Carrington passed away on May 25, 2011. Some of her best-known works include the famous self-Portrait “The Inn of the Dawn Horse”, “Three Women Around the Table”, “The House Opposite”, “The Giantess”, and “The Juggler”.

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