Leonora Carrington was born in 1917 to a British industrialist and an Irish mother. As a girl, she was fascinated with the fantastic. Her Irish nanny regaled her with tales of Gaelic heroes and fairy tale creatures. School proved to be unsatisfying – she was expelled several times.
Carrington was a Surrealist writer, sculptor, and painter whose works were richly saturated in mythology, alchemy, and the occult. Animals were a major element in her works. Humans become animals and animals bend and transform into magical beings. In 1937, Carrington met Max Ernst, who she considered her greatest teacher of Surrealism.
The Surrealist movement sought to explore the subconscious mind through poetry and art. Tradition breaking Dadaists, Karl Marx, and Freud’s dream symbolism all served as initial inspiration. The movement began in the late 1910s. Artists did not adopt the ideals of Surrealism until later. The first of these Surrealist artists such as Joan Miró and Man Ray, all found ways to translate the automaticism of Surrealism in their own works. This created the distinct style that we recognize today. Despite the lack of respect held for women Surrealists, Ernst encouraged Leonora Carrington’s work and introduced her to fellow artists such as Picasso and Dali. Ernst left his wife for Carrington and the two lived together for some time.
World War II scattered the Surrealists. Ernst was imprisoned in an internment camp and Carrington escaped to Spain, where she suffered from a break down and was admitted into a mental institution. She found passage out of Europe by briefly wedding Mexican writer, Renato Leduc. Carrington found her home in Mexico, once dubbed as “surrealist country,” Carrington met other like-minded artists and was absorbed in Mexico’s rich culture and love for colorful and at times macabre masks and costumes. She became a Mexican citizen and lived in Mexico City for the rest of her life.
Leonora Carrington blended multiple influences into her captivating dreamscapes and inventive creatures. Intriguing and thoughtful, her works still fascinate. Carrington passed away in 2011, the last living connection to the original Surrealists.