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1 Painting in Collection

Lenora Carrington


(b. 1917 - 2011) England

Leonora Carrington was born into a wealthy Catholic family in England. Rebellious and unconventional, Carrington was frequently expelled from school and developed an early loathing for the Church. She was sent to a boarding school in Florence where she began painting while studying the Italian Renaissance. Despite family resistance, she pursued her art and continued her study in Europe where she was welcomed into a circle of artists and writers working in the surrealist manner. The group included Paul Eluard and surrealism's unofficial spokesman, Andre Breton.

Breton and other leading male surrealists identified women with the muse. When asked how she felt about that association, Carrington's response was certain and succinct: Bullshit. For Carrington, women were powerful, creative, spiritual beings and she rejected the role of femme-enfant or seductive muse.

She has been active as a painter all her life and calls painting my vehicle of transit. It serves as her way of translating-of connecting the world of reality with her own known truths. In contrast to the confusion of some spontaneous surrealist outpourings, Leonora Carrington's images are composed and readable, in a narrative format, albeit a fantastical one.

In 1937 Carrington met surrealist Max Ernst and they were a couple until Ernst was interned during World War II. As a result of this separation, Carrington suffered a breakdown and in 1940 she was institutionalized by her family. To make sense of the mental confusion, Carrington turned to magic, alchemy and the Celtic stories of her youth.

In The Dead Queens of Cockerham witchlike female forms indulge in a kind of other world orgiastic feast with a pig sloppily feeding alongside. (Carrington subscribes to the Mexican belief that each of us possesses both a human and an animal soul.) The dramatic use of black and red enhances the mystery and deviltry of the scene. There is humor too as one of the forms rests on and serves the floating body of another. The frail, transparent, unkempt women warn us of the dangers of overindulgence and reflect the artist's feelings about her heritage as Cockerham was her family home. The painting also reveals the artist's feeling about the importance of balance and instinct-to abuse the gods, or tip the balance, is to destroy the equilibrium between reality and spirit. In 1942 Carrington traveled to Mexico where she continues to live part time.

In 1948 she had her first one woman show at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York. In 1960 a retrospective was held at the Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno in Mexico City. In 1976 Carrington had a one person exhibition at the Center for Inter-American Relations in New York. Recognized throughout the Western world as an important surrealist, Leonora Carrington continues to work and exhibit.

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