Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington in New York, Fotografiert von Hermann Landshoff, um 1942
bpk/ Münchner Stadtmuseum, Sammlung Fotografie / Archiv Landshoff
1917 – 2011 / Surrealist artist of British-Mexican origin
“André Breton, the leader of the Surrealists, said: Surrealism is not a style, but a worldview, an attitude even! They criticized bourgeois culture in search of alternative ways of living.”
Ingrid Pfeiffer, curator of the first Surrealist show, SCHRIN Kunsthalle, Frankfurt
In search of freedom

The young Leonora Carrington is one of many looking for an alternative, new way of life when she moves to Paris in the 1930s. A daring venture, far from the life her parents envisioned for her. She was born in 1917 to a wealthy textile manufacturer in Lancashire, England. Studying art in London, she imagines that a life in Paris would satisfy her growing need for freedom, drawn to the city’s group of Surrealist artists.

In Paris, the barely twenty-year-old meets the surrealists and – despite the disapproval and threats of her father – starts dating Max Ernst. 

Leonora Carrington und Max Ernst in Frankreich, Fotografiert von Lee Miller, 1939
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2021. All rights reserved. www.leemiller.co.uk
“Cutting ties with her family gave her access to the world in which she could act as an artist. That was the most important thing she ever gained from it. The Surrealist world was not governed or bound by rules. And Leonora tasted this other way of life and from then on there was no going back. “
Joanna Moorhead, relative of Leonora Carrington
Mystical Work / Omnipotence of Dreams

In this newfound freedom, Carrington develops her own unique, mystical style. It’s populated by fantastic creatures, ghosts and mythical animals. In her painting, she merges myths, alchemy and shamanism to a cosmic whole – a feverish labyrinth held together by the omnipotence of dreams.

Leonora Carrington, „The house opposite“, 1945
© VG BILDKUNST/ Courtesy of Fundación Leonora Carrington and West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

And although many still reduce Carrington to her relationship with Ernst, it rather is the development of her artistic handwriting that occupies her.

“I didn’t have time to be someone’s muse. I’ve been too busy fighting against my family. To rebel and learn to be an artist. – Painting is a need, not a choice. ”
Leonora Carrington
Leonora Carrington und Max Ernst, 1937, Fotografie: Lee Miller
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2021. All rights reserved. www.leemiller.co.uk

Much more than her relationship with Ernst, Carrington is shaped by Mexico, where she lives and works from 1942 until the end of her life. In this distant exile, she finds the ideal place to reinvent herself. Here she combines her imaginative worlds with South American myths.

Leonora Carrington, „La maja del Tarot“, 1965
© VG BILDKUNST/ Courtesy of Fundación Leonora Carrington

But the work away from the artistic metropolis put Leonora Carrington below the radar of the art world. Only a few years before her death in 2011, the art market discovered the idiosyncratic artist, and in no time her work earned millions.