Léonor Fini was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1907, but was raised in Italy by her mother. While Fini received no formal artistic training, she greatly enjoyed reading art books and visiting museums as a child. At a young age, Fini suffered from rheumatic conjunctivitis, an eye disease which required her to cover her eyes for several months. This experience heavily influenced the surrealism of her artistic style; Fini recalled that living in darkness enabled her to imagine and visualize incredible images and scenes.
In her early twenties, Fini moved to Paris and met fellow artists that would influence her work, such as Max Ernst, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and particularly, Carlo Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico. She exhibited with many of these artists in 1936 in London and with Max Ernst at the Julien Levy Gallery, which was an important venue for Surrealists in the United States. In 1942 her work was included in an all-woman exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery in New York City.
Leonor Fini is considered an important contributor to the feminist movement as an artist, alongside Leonora Carrington and Frida Kahlo. Her work is known for exploring female sexuality, identity, and power struggles between the sexes. The sphinx was an important subject that Fini revisited many times over her career; Fini painted her own face on the body of the lion.
In addition to paintings and drawings, Leonor Fini’s creative vision extended to designs for jewelry, furniture, theater sets, and costumes. Fini died in Paris in 1996. Today her work may be found in a number of major museum collections, including the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.